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Saturday 1 October 2016

'Once a Belvo boy, always a Belvo boy,' tributes to tragic schoolboy who died during football game

Gareth Naughton

Published 06/06/2015 | 16:42

Belvedere FC team mates joining the funeral procession at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.
Belvedere FC team mates joining the funeral procession at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.

Tragic schoolboy Shetemi Ayetigbo, who collapsed and died during a football game last week, has been remembered at his memorial service this afternoon.

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"Once a Belvo boy, always a Belvo boy. We will never forget you. Keep on dancing and smiling."

That was the message signed on a framed jersey carried by the boys of Belvedere Football Club as they said goodbye to their fallen teammate.

Shetemi, 16, who was affectionately known as Shay by his teammates, had dreams of becoming a professional footballer.

His brother Wale told the hundreds gathered for the memorial service at the Donabate and Portrane Community Centre that he mourns for the future his brother could have had.

"He was one of a kind, he stood on his own. He knew what he wanted to do and how to get it," he said.

It was last weekend while playing the sport he loved that Shay collapsed. The tragedy unfolded during a break in play in a game between Shay’s team, Belvedere FC, and St Kevin’s Boys FC. Desperate attempts to revive him at the scene failed and he was subsequently pronounced dead at Beaumont Hospital. 

The devastating impact of his death on his local community was evident in the hundreds of people who turned out for his memorial service. People lined the walls of the hall and more gathered outside to hear the service.

Sports Minister Paschal Donohoe and senior representatives from the FAI were among those in attendance.  

Shay's family, his heartbroken mother Lola, father Zac and brothers Wale and Victor, had asked mourners not to wear black and the congregation packed into the community hall obliged. His teammates wore their sky blue jerseys and the boys of St Kevin's FC paid their respects in their orange kit.

Team mates Andy Mooney, Conor Fawler and Neil Farrugia from Belvedere FC at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.
Team mates Andy Mooney, Conor Fawler and Neil Farrugia from Belvedere FC at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.
Shetemi Ayetigbo
Team mate and footballer Evan Casey from Belvedere FC at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.
Team friends and members of Belvedere FC at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.
Belvedere FC joining the funeral procession at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.
Belvedere FC joining the funeral procession at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.
Belvedere FC joining the funeral procession at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.
Belvedere FC joining the funeral procession at the funeral of Shetemi Ayetigbo (known as Shay) which took place on in Donabate Community Centre. Picture Conor McCabe.

Mourners, many of whom were in their teens, were surrounded by pictures of the popular young man documenting his life, his time in school and his exploits on the football pitch.

His name was spelled out in a giant collage of similar pictures. As mourners entered the hall, they were greeted by a video of Shay dancing in the Belvedere FC dressing room.

It was a hugely emotional service with the teenager's friends, teammates, classmates, teachers and coaches paying tribute to him. Friends brought gifts, symbols of his life including the jersey, a photo montage of his time in football, custard creams, Maltesers, and a comb.

One friend told the congregation the one thing Shetemi would want him to tell them was: "stay happy, keep believing and never stop smiling".

There were laughs as his national school principal Maeve Corish, of Donabate Portrane Educate Together, recalled how in sixth class Shay had written a "passionate love letter" to Cheryl Cole. "In the letter, of course, she was deeply in love with him," she said, "The only thing in question was whether she was deserving of his love in return".

Belvedere FC manager Tommy Kenny  said he was a "smashing, smashing kid" and spoke of the moments before Shay's last game when he energised the team with his dancing. Shay had told him his ambition was to be a great player.

"I said, you already are. He said 'no, I haven't even started yet'," he told the congregation.

Prior to his death Shay had been voted player of the year at the club and the trophy was presented to the family during the service.

"Shay, you were the brightest star in a very bright group," Mr Kenny said, "and you will live forever in our memories. Thanks for the joy that you brought into our lives. Have a safe journey. We will love you and miss you forever".

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