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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 16:50 GMT
Star helps in graffiti removal
Northern Ireland star Andy Smith helps out with the painting
Northern Ireland star Andy Smith helps out with the painting
A football international has been helping local children to remove sectarian graffiti at the home of Northern Ireland's football team.

The Irish Football Association has been working with community groups to paint over loyalist slogans daubed on a footbridge at Windsor Park in south Belfast.

Northern Ireland sport - particularly soccer - has been dogged by a history of sectarianism.

With the area being revamped, Northern Ireland soccer's governing body hopes that sectarian messages around the stadium will be consigned to the past.

The graffiti is to be covered over with murals depicting great moments in Northern Ireland soccer, such as Gerry Armstrong's goal against Spain in the 1982 World Cup.

Northern Ireland and Glentoran striker Andy Smith, who went along to the ground of rival team Linfield on Thursday to help out, welcomed the project.

"I think it's very good - not that long ago, I used to kick a ball about round here," he said.

Gerry Armstrong's 1982 World Cup goal
Murals depicting great NI moments will replace the old graffiti
"It's good to give something back to the community."

IFA community relations officer Michael Boyd said it was one of the most satisfying and fun initiatives he had worked on during his four years in the organisation.

"The Community Relations Council got on board and sponsored it, and we were able to get the local communities involved," he said.

"It has been one of those projects that everybody has been enthusiastic about, and it has snowballed.

"The local kids are involved, and everybody has got behind it - players, supporters and Linfield Football Club."

The IFA said it was one of many initiatives they have developed to combat sectarianism.

BBC NI's Malachy McCourt reports
"With the help of community groups in the area, the IFA are hoping to create a more positive image for football fans"

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