Derry parade marks return of Foyle Cup football tournament

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Image caption From Tampa Bay to the banks of the Foyle

Thousands of young footballers have taken part in a parade in Londonderry to mark the return of the Foyle Cup.

The annual tournament has once again attracted a record number of entries, with over 340 teams competing.

Clubs coming from the United States, Germany, France and Finland will mix it with the best of local talent.

The six day 'festival of football' is a key event in the North West's sporting calendar.

With scouts attending most games, it is also seen as an opportunity for young players to potentially clinch their dream move to a top club.

Image caption The Oxford Bulls were one of the teams chosen to lead the parade

'Bigger than Premier League'

The parade signifying the opening of the tournament saw the teams take to the streets of Derry.

Among those at the head of the parade were the Oxford Bulls, a local team of young footballers with Down's syndrome who hit the headlines in April when they played their first match after featuring in a video with Republic of Ireland player James McClean.

Foyle Cup chairman Michael Hutton believes this year's event is bigger and better than ever.

"For the kids, this is their week of the year and for the city it is a fantastic event.

"There are 49 Americans here for 10 days and they're travelling all over the north so in terms of the bigger picture, there is not a hotel bed available in this city from Sunday through to Sunday this week.

"We have eight teams here from America this week, not only that we have a team from Germany, we've a team from Finland, from France."

Image caption They came from near and far to take part

"All over the world people are identifying with what's going on in this city," Mr Hutton said.

"In the premier league in England, in one full season, they play 380 matches. In six days in this city and surrounding area, we will play 1,357 games."

Image caption Local teams will clash with some of the best world talent

In recent years, Foyle Cup organisers raised concerns about the funding of the tournament.

"There's still ongoing problems, we would love more funding and equal respect with other tournaments in Ireland," Mr Hutton told BBC Radio Foyle,

"But hopefully we'll get that and people will realise the benefits this tournament brings to all."

Image caption The parade has been a fans favourite for many years

You can find a full list of the fixtures and venues for the tournament, here.

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