Friday 23 February 2018

Screams of grief for 'Toy'

Shane Hickey

A DESPERATE wail of grief tore through the silence in one wave of emotion.

As the shroud-wrapped body of Toyosi 'Toy' Shittabey was lifted from his coffin to be placed into his grave, the depth of feeling of the gathered crowd erupted in a communal scream of deep despair

"We can't see again what we see here today," came a cry from the throng of mourners.

Yesterday the Nigerian teenager, who was known for his speed on the soccer pitch and slagging his friends in his Dublin accent, took his final journey in a traditional Muslim ceremony following his violent death last week.

Some 500 people packed around an open grave in Newcastle cemetery to bid farewell in a despairing and sorrowful ceremony for the 15-year-old, who was killed just a few hundred yards from his home in Tyrrelstown on Friday evening.

Earlier in the day, five team-mates from Shelbourne's Under 15s helped wheel the coffin of the enthusiastic footballer out of Cunningham's funeral home in Lucan where he went through the full Muslim final rituals.

About 100 people filed past the body of Toy, who had a white shroud wrapped up to his neck, in the funeral home as his heartbroken father Segun looked on, flanked by his two sons Sodiq (22) and Tunde (12) after the traditional washing and shrouding ceremony had taken place.

The coffin, draped in a Shelbourne flag, was then moved to the cemetery where a short Islamic prayer service was held. The flag was replaced by a blue UEFA 'Respect' banner, the organisation's anti-racism scheme.

"He was great at taking people on and dribbling with the ball. He just ran all day," Glenn Menton, his captain in Shelbourne, said of his former friend.

Weeping from the crowd erupted into persistent shouts of grief and desperation when Toy's body was taken from his coffin and placed in the grave on his right side facing Mecca, as is tradition within the Islamic faith. The crowds bustled forward just inches away as the body was placed in the ground while Imam Shehu Adetola Adeniji from the Nigerian Mosque on Sheriff Street led the prayers. "Oh my God. Short life," shouted a woman.

Among the crowd was a large number of the Nigerian community and friends, both white and black, of the teenager, weeping at the loss of their companion.

Toy's parents were absent from the ceremony, again in Nigerian Muslim tradition, instead relying on their friends and relatives to bury their beloved son, the second eldest of six children. The Imam told the crowd "your good soul and your good mind is what this boy needs" and that we will all face death "no matter what".

"There is no-one living a life that will not die," he said. Toy is now "open with God" and those around him should work to be law-abiding and worship God and "not cause hate".

At the end of the emotion-charged ceremony, Sodiq and Tunde were the first to throw soil on the body of Toy. They were followed by members of Shelbourne who joined in the tradition. Among the mourners were FAI chief executive John Delaney and MEP Joe Higgins, while Integration Minister Mary White also attended.

The Nigerian ambassador Kemafo Nonyerem Chikwe said the "racist killing" of Toy was not just an Irish issue. Ms White said she intended reviewing legislation dealing with racism issues and prepare a report on the matter. "There will be no room for racism in this country of ours either covert or overt," she said. Leaders of the Muslim community repeated a call for restraint following the announcement of a rally in memory of Toyosi at the weekend. Assistant Immam from Sheriff Street Alhaj Saliu Adewanmi Adeniran said these sorts of rallies could instigate problems with teenagers and could be difficult to control.

Irish Independent

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