Sunday 23 September 2018

'They wouldn't say it to your face. When they're hiding amongst the crowd, they get brave' - Cyrus Christie on racist abuse

Irish defender annoyed by lack of progress in identifying culprits

Cyrus Christie during Republic of Ireland squad training at Regnum Sports Centre
Cyrus Christie during Republic of Ireland squad training at Regnum Sports Centre
Cyrus Christie. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

For Cyrus Christie, the pain of the World Cup defeat to Denmark was exacerbated by the nasty fallout.

The Ireland defender was on the receiving end of racist abuse via social media and ended up making a formal statement to the gardaí in a bid to find the perpetrators.

It was unclear where the comments came from but, as he addressed the episode publicly ahead of tonight's friendly in Turkey, Christie confirmed that he had been on the receiving end of similar comments after all of Ireland's games in the autumn.

The 25-year-old says he is not letting it get him down because he has been on the receiving end of much worse.

What bugs him is his belief that investigations always seem to go nowhere. He is still waiting on Danish developments.

"The police were on but whether something will get done or not, I don't know," he says.

"That's just the way it is. A lot of the time when stuff like this happens, nothing really gets done. A lot of these people are hiding behind different profiles.

"I've had a lot worse growing up, when I was in school, so for me it was water off a duck's back," continued Christie, who grew up in Coventry.

"I've moved on, I was more disappointed with the result than anything. If that's what they want to resort to, they can, it's sticks and stones at the end of the day. I'm not going to be too hurt by it.

"Obviously it came out that I had noticed it. I actually didn't know too much about it until I got told and then I saw it because I didn't really go on my social media. I've had worse in my career. I think it came out that I was crying about it which obviously wasn't true.

"I've had worse in my time, I've had 10 times worse. You don't really hear it on the terraces now. You get the odd person but it's more social media, that's where they get brave. They wouldn't say it to your face. When they're hiding amongst the crowd, they get brave."

Evidently, Christie feels that some Ireland supporters were involved.

"Obviously people are going to be hurt and disappointed," he says. "We were hurting in the dressing-room just as much as the fans but for them to resort to that is a low blow.

"I'll move on, whether or not something gets done, who knows. I think that's why a lot of people don't speak out when it does happen. It happened in the four previous games as well, the Georgia and Serbia games, it happened over the course of a couple of months. It's one of those, you don't speak out because nothing does happen.

"And look at the young boy who spoke out not long ago and then Mason Holgate (who accused Roberto Firmino of making a racially abusive comment but the Liverpool player was subsequently cleared).

"They went through his tweets from the age of 13 and 14 and he gets disciplined quicker. They (authorities) set a precedent there. I think that's why a lot of people don't speak about it.

"I'm not sure how long it will take to be eradicated from the game but a lot more needs to be done. 'Kick it Out' and the PFA and FA can do more. Twitter and social media can do more.

"I have experienced it a lot and it is kind of normal for me. You think that it's going away from that but then it comes back.

"I'm always happy and proud to represent my country and my family is always happy and proud and feel a massive part of it.

"From day one I have felt welcome. I cannot hold the whole country to certain people's beliefs, you cannot judge everyone by that same cover. I'll move on from it. It's gone now, it's in the past."

The business of football seems trivial in comparison, but it really has been a roller-coaster 12 months for Christie - who collected the FAI's Young Player award on Sunday.

He joined Middlesbrough last summer only to realise his time was up when Tony Pulis was hired in December and that was the catalyst for a January transfer to Fulham.

"He just said he wanted to go with someone he knew who was Ryan Shotton - who is really a centre-half - at right-back."

Seamus Coleman's return from injury could squeeze Christie out of the Ireland side, but he does feel there might be a solution and Martin O'Neill has explored it in training.

"I don't see any reason why we can't both play," he argued. "He is the first choice, everybody knows that, but I can play on the wing, I can play left-back. That's up to the manager."

He does have Danish regrets, and a chat with Middlesbrough's Dane Martin Braithwaite gave him the impression that Ireland had exasperated them until their fortunate Aviva equaliser - a Christie own goal - turned things.

"We can only look at ourselves," he says. "And rectify the mistakes that we made, move on and grow."

Away from the pitch, he is relying on other people to take responsibility for their actions.

Irish Independent

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