DUBLIN, July 22 (Xinhua) -- A Gaelic football exhibition match between China and Ireland was held here on Sunday to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries, attracting nearly 50,000 local spectators.
This is the first and largest match of its kind ever held in Ireland in terms of its uniqueness and number of watchers.
The match was played between the two teams each comprising both male and female players from the opposite side in obvious failure to follow the normal rules of the Gaelic football matches. Nevertheless, it did not prevent the match from drawing such a large audience.
The secret for the huge publicity the match received was hidden in its timing. The ten-minute match was staged during the half-time interval of a quarterfinal match of All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, a most-watched Gaelic football event annually held in Ireland.
In fact, the number of people who watched the Sunday exhibition match at Croke Park is much more than the 48,000-plus figure announced by the organizer as tens of thousands of Irish households watched the match at home, which was broadcasted live by local media.
"Today's exhibition match was extremely successful, more successful than we had expected," said Sean Cunningham, one of the numerous people who helped the organizer GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) in turning the two-year idea of the match into a reality.
"By staging such an exhibition match at such an important football championship in Ireland, we intended to hold a big celebration for the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Ireland and China," he said, adding that they had succeeded in doing so.
"Ireland and China are friends," he said in a fluent Chinese which he learned through years of studying and working in China.
34-year-old Sean is a member of an Irish Gaelic football club from his hometown and also a North Asia Officer for GAA in China. GAA is a non-government organization engaged in promoting traditional Irish culture and sports including Gaelic football both home and abroad.
Sean said currently there are six Gaelic football clubs in China with an estimated 1,000 members.
"We hope the number of Gaelic football lovers in China will grow as the relations between our two countries are growing stronger and stronger," he said.
Unlike soccer, Gaelic football allows players to use both feet and hands in playing the game and it is one of the most popular sports in Ireland.