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Sunday 22 July 2018

Cyrus can't give in to the online bigots insists O'Neill

Scourge of racism still not eradicated from football says Ireland manager

ABUSE: Cyrus Christie of the Republic of Ireland during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-off 2nd leg match against Denmark at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
ABUSE: Cyrus Christie of the Republic of Ireland during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-off 2nd leg match against Denmark at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

More than 30 years after he witness his own team-mate, Viv Anderson, being abused for the colour of his skin, Martin O'Neill says he's saddened that, today, footballers are still being singled out for racist abuse.

Last week current Ireland international Cyrus Christie highlighted, for the third time in less than six months, that he had been the subject of racial abuse on twitter.

Christie had previously spoken of his upset when, in the wake of Ireland's World Cup defeat to Denmark, he had been targeted but the messages posted online last week were more sinister, one vile post including images of a lynching, and Christie has reported them to twitter.

And O'Nei ll, speaking in Dublin at at event for Show Racism The Red Card, says that the idea of Christie escaping all this by simply closing his twitter account should not be an option.

Too easy

"I think it's too easy to say 'come off twitter'. That's almost like giving in, and he shouldn't have to," O'Neill said.

"It is difficult with these particularly new gadgets coming in like twitter, it seems to be gotten back to the surface again.

"I'm not on twitter but I have heard of it [the abuse] and made aware of it. It is remarkable that people in this day and age can attack somebody in this way and also get away with it."

The incidents involving a player in his current squad brings back memories of England in the 1970s and '80s when a fellow Forest player was abused.

"Some years ago I played for a very decent football team that produced the first black man to play for England in Viv Anderson.

"He was a wonderful footballer and adored by all the football fans in Nottingham but who took terrible abuse away from home and all because of the colour of his skin," said O'Neill.

LOOKING ON: At the Show Racism the Red Card awards ceremony at Tallaght Stadium were (l-r) Colin Bell, manager of the Republic of Ireland women’s team, Martin O’Neill, manager of the Ireland men’s team and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine
Zappone TD watching Kevin Nguyen from St Aidan’s School in Dublin display his soccer skills. Photo: Barry Cronin
LOOKING ON: At the Show Racism the Red Card awards ceremony at Tallaght Stadium were (l-r) Colin Bell, manager of the Republic of Ireland women’s team, Martin O’Neill, manager of the Ireland men’s team and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD watching Kevin Nguyen from St Aidan’s School in Dublin display his soccer skills. Photo: Barry Cronin

"Viv was a very strong character and he took on the matter himself. He got through it and became not only loved by the people of Nottingham but he changed a lot of people's minds by his own great willpower.

" But he had a pretty tough time of it. It's a serious issue and he dealt with it very well.

"While those situations have improved immensely over the last 25 to 30 years there are still problems.

"I think if you ask some of the players now, they will tell you that things have improved but that it's still there," he added.

"When I was manager of Aston Villa we had a number of brilliantly talented black players in the side who also, a wee bit like Cyrus, felt clubs were not doing enough to protect them in matches especially away from home.

"I think it has come on fantastically but I still say we have a long way to go before it's totally eradicated.

"Cyrus has, seemingly on the surface, adopted an attitude like Viv Anderson by saying 'well, it's happened, I don't like what they are saying but such is life'.

"But it should not happen. We all have to play a part. I honestly feel there is a genuine effort to do something about it. It's a feeling that nothing has been done and that's disappointing."

As someone who moved from Northern Ireland to England in 1971, O'Neill also knows that Irishness can bring a target on someone's back, especially during the darkest days of the Troubles.

"It was obviously when the Troubles in Northern Ireland had erupted in the mainland. It became an issue and I think even my fellow team-mates had a problem with it, because suddenly you're Irish and you are part of that and that's the case," he said.

"Particularly when some of the bombs were around Nottingham, or not too far, Birmingham, a lot of people lost their lives... I'm going way back to 1974.

"We were Irish, even though as footballers we probably didn't have a status at that time, but we really did really feel the effects of it at the time. It was pretty difficult, it was difficult for a number of years.

"The ordinary Irish person living in England had a difficult time," added the Ireland boss, who feels that Liverpool should get past Roma in tomorrow's Champions League semi-final

"They are in a great position, they are playing very well and they are capable of scoring goals. And they are very, very capable of winning the competition," he said.

3Martin O'Neill was speaking at the Show Racism The Red Card awards ceremony in Dublin, honouring primary and secondary school students and youth groups who worked on projects tackling racism.

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