A peaceful religious protest has taken place outside Windsor Park in opposition to Northern Ireland’s first ever Sunday fixture on home soil.
The Irish Football Association has never before staged an international game on a Sunday but was forced to break new ground by UEFA’s ’Week of Football’ initiative.
Euro 2016 qualifiers are now spread throughout the international period, with dates allocated automatically by computer.
But the Tyndale Memorial branch of the Free Presbyterian Church has criticised the IFA for failing to seek dispensation and declining to inform local church groups.
Reverend Raymond Robinson, whose congregation held placards and handed out leaflets on Donegall Avenue, said: “Our opposition is to the breaking of observance of the Lord’s day.
“We believe in the Sabbath being kept holy. It seems more and more that the football agenda is being driven by the television companies and not what God says, or what public opinion is.
“A delegation met the IFA and expressed our concerns. We found it interesting that the likes of Gibraltar and Spain had special circumstances (within the UEFA schedule) but the IFA couldn’t have the same for observing Sunday as the Lord’s day.
“We were also surprised at the IFA not contacting local churches about the fixture, which we felt would have been common courtesy.
“They did say they would seek to accommodate us and help out but if we had never mentioned it that would never have happened.”