Belfast Telegraph

Racist row follows chanting at match
Black player target of abuse by football fans

By Staff Reporter
29 December 2004

A ROW was brewing today over racism in Northern Ireland sport after reports of a black player being the target of abuse at a Co Antrim football match.

Fans reported an outbreak of racist chanting at the game between Ballymena United and Coleraine at Ballymena Showgrounds on Monday.

After the game there were also reports of attacks at Catholic-owned premises in the Co Antrim town.

Ballymena chairman Robert Cupples said he was unaware of the incidents but that if evidence was brought to them and culprits identified he said they could be banned.

Fans at the match, which was attended by some 2,500 making it the biggest crowd of the season at Ballymena, said the racist outrage involved a small but vociferous section of home fans making monkey sounds when Coleraine's South African-born 18-year-old, Bryce Moon, came on as a substitute in the 59th minute.

One spectator said: "The fans making the racist chants were a disgrace. It was only a small minority but this sort of thing should not be tolerated as it gives every decent fan a bad name. This is the last thing the Irish League needs."

Coleraine Football Club secretary Freddie Monahan condemned the chanting but said it was a problem for Ballymena to deal with.

He said Moon is a great player who joined Coleraine at the start of the season and lives in the area.

"He is very well liked and never gets any trouble in Coleraine. We signed him through an educational scheme and as well as playing football he is getting an education here.

"The player knew nothing about the chanting and he wouldn't want to comment on it," said Mr Monahan.

A police spokesman said they had not received any reports regarding the racist chants.

Ballymena United chairman Robert Cupples said last night he was unaware of racist chants or sectarian attacks outside the ground.

"If they did happen I would deplore them. I didn't hear any racist chants or hear anyone talking about it. No Coleraine official mentioned it nor did the referee or linesmen and I was talking to them after the game.

"If we can identify who was involved we could deal with them and ban them but we have never had any racist chanting before."

"If the police let us know who was involved we will take action. We don't want any of this stuff, not even bad language," he added.

A separate controversy flared over alleged sectarian attacks involving Ballymena United fans leaving the ground.

A police spokesman confirmed they received reports around 5.15pm on Monday that a section of the crowd coming from the football match was damaging cars in the Broughshane Street area and that a shop window was broken in William Street.

The spokesman said they received a report that a group of between ten and 15 youths wearing scarves and hoods had broken the shop window.

An eye-witness said the group of youths was wearing Ballymena United scarves and that they chanted sectarian remarks outside a snooker hall in Broughshane Street.

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