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Youngsters lining out for 'football gaelico' as Spain catches GAA fever

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Children playing under-12 Gaelic football match in the town of Tres Cantos, on the outskirts of Madrid.

Children playing under-12 Gaelic football match in the town of Tres Cantos, on the outskirts of Madrid.

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Children playing under-12 Gaelic football match in the town of Tres Cantos, on the outskirts of Madrid.

IT was a typically blustery weekend morning when the boys and girls from their respective GAA teams lined out for an under-12s match.

And while the same scene was played out at clubs across Ireland, this match was a notable exception.

Not only did it take place on an astroturf soccer pitch in Madrid, the majority of the players were Spanish children who have never set foot on Irish soil or seen a live GAA match.

But that didn't dampen their enthusiasm for the "football gaelico" that is taking off like wildfire in the Spanish capital and other cities across Spain.

There are already about eight senior league GAA teams in Spain set up and run by Irish ex-patriates. There is also growing interest among the Spanish themselves, with the city of La Coruna now boasting all-Spanish ladies and men's teams.

Boast

But for the first time on the Continent, the cities of Madrid and Valencia can now boast their own under-12s Gaelic football clubs.

"The idea of a children's club began in 2010 with players that had grown up with GAA in Ireland. But they're now raising children of their own in Spain," said Paul Tighe, a founding member of Madrid's under-12 football club.

"A big selling point for Spanish parents was the English-speaking environment at training. . . What's really gratifying for me, though, is seeing children in the playground showing their classmates how to play GAA," added Tom Salomonson, an Irish expatriate teacher and co-founder of Valencia's youth team.

Irish Independent