Known as football or soccer, sometimes to avoid confusion with Gaelic football, is one of the most popular sports in Northern Ireland. Despite low match attendance at domestic league games, many people have an interest in the English Premier League or the Scottish Premier League.

The governing body in Northern Ireland is the Irish Football Association (IFA).

Governing body

The Irish Football Association (IFA) is the organising body for football in Northern Ireland, and had historically been the governing body for the whole of the island. It should not be confused with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), which is the organising body in the Republic of Ireland.

Competitions

The domestic leagues is the Irish Football League. Some of the major teams include Derry City FC, Glentoran FC and Linfield FC (although Derry City play in the Republic of Ireland's league).

The Milk Cup is a successful international youth tournament held annually in Northern Ireland, in which clubs and national teams from anywhere in the world may compete. Northern Ireland also played host to the 2005 UEFA Under-19 European Championships.

The Setanta Sports Cup was set up by its sponsors, television channel Setanta Ireland. It is an all-island mini-World Cup style tournament (two groups of four, then semis and final) featuring eight teams, four being from the League of Ireland and four from the Irish League. Despite fairly low turnouts for each jurisdictions leagues, the Setanta Cup drew relatively successful gate receipts and in its three-year existence has had one winner from the North (Linfield in 2005).

National team

Northern Ireland's international team, despite a poor run of form in the late 1990s and first few years of the 21st century, and a corresponding slump in the FIFA World Rankings, enjoyed great success in the early and mid 80's and recently have had a revival in their fortunes under manager former Lawrie Sanchez, with home wins over Spain and England.

Most of the players come from the English or Scottish leagues although occasional appearances of Irish League players have been known.

See also