Sunday 24 March 2019

'They've really bought into the whole ethos of the club' - Syrian brother and sister secure Féile glory

Ahmed Soda in action
Ahmed Soda in action

Max Ryan

Syrian siblings Ahmed and Renad Soda are scoring points on the field and in the community for West Belfast GAA club Padraíg Saírseíl.

The brother and sister helped lead their football teams to Antrim Féile glory in the U14 age group on Sunday just two-and-a-half years after they arrived in North of Ireland from their hometown of Aleppo.

Ahmed, who is as adept with a ball as he is with a sliotar, is playing his third season with Paddies after being introduced to the club by a neighbour who helped the family settle in the town, while sister Renad has been involved since last year.

Both children are a credit to the their club and testament to its inclusive spirit, according to chairman Paul Barr.

Renad Soda
Renad Soda

"They're two great kids and we're delighted to have them involved," Barr told "It's been helpful for them and really special for us because they've really bought into the whole ethos of the club."

Founded in 1906, Padraíg Saírseíl is well rooted in the West Belfast community but Barr believes the club has thrived of late from a more international membership.

"As a club we've benefited from having not just Ahmed and Renad but other nationalities and kids from non-GAA backgrounds," he says. "Everyone is welcome to take part in our club."

Growing the women's game is a stated aim of a club seemingly keen on promoting equality at every level and that is why Barr, despite being thrilled by the boys' third féile title in five years, is particularly proud of the girls' achievement.

"This is the first time we have won the Antrim Ladies Féile," he says. "The LGFA started within the club five years ago."

Their most recent success means that both Ahmed and Renad's teams will compete at the John West Féile Peile na nÓg, an annual U14 club festival, from June 29 to July 1 in Meath.

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