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“Those people shouldn't have the right to say what they say. There is only so much you can do, someone can just create an account on social media and say anything”
Former Ireland U21 cap Jonathan Afolabi says he opted not to report two incidents of racist abuse which he encountered while playing in Ireland as he was unsure if action would be taken.
Back in his native Dublin with Bohemians since last summer, after a six-year stay in the UK with Southampton and Celtic, Afolabi (23) made headlines across the water in 2021 when, during a spell on loan to Dundee from Celtic, he was the subject of racial abuse online, condemned by Dundee as “vile racist messages”.
But the Tallaght man says incidents have also occurred in Ireland, first when he played for the Republic’s U19s in Waterford in 2017 when he was racially abused by an opposing player, and also while on duty with Bohs last year.
“It is still there, it has happened a few times where I didn't report it as I didn't expect anything to be done,” said Afolabi, capped at youth and U21 levels by Ireland.
“I had it recently, last year when I was at Bohs, I won't say the team it happened against but it did happen in Ireland, a comment that was made, I decided to let it go.
“I had one racial incident playing for Ireland, playing at the RSC against Cyprus - I scored two goals - and an opponent made a comment. Tom Mohan (U19 team manager) tried to help, he wanted to report it, but I let it go.
“Those people shouldn't have the right to say what they say. There is only so much you can do, someone can just create an account on social media and say anything.
"I try not to let it get to me as it could be anyone saying it to get under your skin to make you play badly, you need a strong mentality all the time.”
A family friend of athletics star and fellow Dubliner Rhasidat Adeleke, Afolabi added: "A lot of players and athletes of African heritage have come through and if they see themselves as Irish, why would they be anything else?
"It's a big thing to wear the green jersey, in any sport, and sing the national anthem, it's a privilege to do it, we are doing all we can to make the country look good."