A Championship soccer match in England had to be stopped this week following an outbreak of anti-Irish racism directed against Irish international and Stoke City player James McClean.
The match between Huddersfield and Stoke City was halted for an announcement ordering home fans to stop chanting “F*** the IRA” and other remarks or risk the match being abandoned. The game ultimately resumed with the home side losing 5-2.
Mr McClean has borne the brunt of anti-Irish sectarianism and racism in the English FA over his decision to not wear a poppy in commemoration of British soldiers. Mr McClean has cited the British Army massacre of 14 innocent civilians in his native city of Derry for not wearing a poppy.
Durung the match on New Year’s Day, Mr McClean complained to the referee about racist and sectarian chants and, in accordance with a new anti-discrimination protocol, the game was stopped while the officials talked with the two teams’ managers. An announcement was also made over the PA system at the stadium telling supporters that “offensive behaviour is affecting the game and will not be tolerated”.
It is the third time inside two months that the Derry man has been singled out for abuse.
Michael O’Neill, the Stoke head coach said: “James has been encouraged to report abuse he receives of a sectarian nature to the match official. He did it on Boxing Day when he was subjected to it by Sheffield Wednesday fans, and he felt the need to do it today.
“He’s 100 per cent right to do so. He’s followed the protocol and he’s doing the right thing. It’s something that happens on a very regular basis to be honest. It’s totally unnecessary. People have to be held accountable for their behaviour when they come to a football stadium.
“James is a very strong character and he is targeted because of his background.”
Huddersfield have promised to investigate fully, insisting they will come down heavily on any supporter found guilty of targeting Mr McClean with abuse. Danny Cowley, the manager, said: “There’s no place for discrimination of any type whatsoever. The club will investigate and ensure the people involved will be duly punished.”
The issue of racism is an increasing problem in English soccer, with far more incidents reported this year than any previous year. Most recently, the abuse of Antonio Rüdiger, a Chelsea defender and German international during a London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, caused the match to be halted three times when he was subjected to racist chants.
Mr McClean has said anti-Irish racism was not being treated with the same seriousness by the football authorities.
“I’m a white Irishman, to put it bluntly. That’s not high on the agenda in England.”
Earlier this year, he displayed a ‘birthday card’ he received to highlight the vile abuse he has to endure.
“The Irish are a race of inbred, subhuman parasites,” wrote the author, his message scrawled in block capitals. “Bloody Sunday. Bloody good laugh. 13 nil to us. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Should have been 13,000 of you sub human b******s.”