Tuesday 17 September 2019

Racism storm as second Wexford case revealed


IN A LANDMARk development, County Wexford GAA is tackling the issue of racism against players of different ethnic origins.

The organisation founded on the principle of cultural identity has ordered the suspension of two Duffry Rovers players who racially abused talented footballer and hurler Lee Chin of the Sarsfields.

Chin whose Malaysian father Voon runs the Chin Can Cook restaurant in Bride Street, Wexford endured taunts taunts about his ethnicity during a senior football club championship match in Bree two months ago.

The referee Brendan Martin detailed the verbal abuse in a match report and the matter was investigated by the Wexford Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) which held a hearing during the past month.

The committee found that Chin was the victim of racist taunts and directed that the two players be suspended for two months.

A rising star in Wexford GAA, Lee is a footballer and hurler at inter-county level and also plays soccer with Wexford Bohemians

The racist comments were made when he was involved in a tackle during the game played under floodlights in Bree on April 20.

After the ruling, the young Wexfordman said it wasn't the first time that he had been subjected to racism.

'I've been putting up with this kind of abuse for my entire life,' he said.

'Now at this stage, it feels like it is getting a bit more personal. It's becoming more of an issue for me and it's not just me having to put up with this.'

' There are younger people of mixed races who are coming up against this too.'

'Some of them may just listen to some of the things being said to them and think: 'Is it worth this at all.'

'I have learnt in my own way to deal with it when I'm playing but the only reason I am speaking out about this is to try and make sure younger GAA players don't have to face this,' he said.

A similar stand was taken this week by Wexford footballer Edward Lawlor of St. Joseph's GAA Club and Wexford Bohemians who revealed that he has been the victim of racist comments about the colour for his skin for many years.

'I've been used to this my whole life,' said Edward (32) who is happy that the issue has been highlighted, less for his own sake than for younger players coming up.

' I'm going through this my whole life. I just put up with it and said to myself that they're ignorant people but it's wrong for youngsters. I have two younger brothers and I don't want them to have to put up with it,' he said.

'I think it's wrong for youngsters to have to put up with it.'

'When I was younger I didn't understand it when people made comments. At the time, I was the only coloured fella in the town.'

'As I got older, I just tried to ignore it.'

Edward is grandson of the late boxing coach Eddie Byrne and a former neighbour of Lee Chin's family in Wolfe Tone Villas.

A player with St. Joseph's GAA and a member of the junior intercounty panel, he said the racist taunts that are shouted at him, don't just come from opponents on the field.

'Sometimes, you hear them coming from the crowd,' he said.

A complaint by Edward's club St. Joseph's that he was racially abused by an umpire during a recent match is currently under investigation by the CCCC.

A hearing of the complaint is expected to take place within the next week.

Verbal taunts are a feature of life on the pitch where any perceived difference or weakness is used to get at an opponent. The better a player you are, the bigger the threat you pose and the more likely you are to be the target of verbal and physical abuse.

However, as Lee Chin's experience came to light, the GAA made it clear that racism will not be tolerated. The organisation's response was prompt and unequivocal. County chairman Diarmuid Devereux said racist behaviour is not acceptable.

'Lee Chin is a Wexford man, born in Wexford, living in Wexford, educated in Wexford and working in Wexford. He is one of our stars of the future. Hopefully, many more will follow his lead and example,' he said.

'In the years to come, the GAA is going to be more ethnic so it's important to send out a clear message that we will not accept such racial abuse on our playing pitches or within the Association,' he added.

It is understood that Duffry Rovers co-operated fully with the CCCC and also made it clear that racism would not be condoned.

As a new population of multi- cultural players rises through the ranks of the GAA, the organisation which was founded on the principle of preserving Ireland's own cultural heritage can have only one response to racist attacks on the ethnic identities of others and that as the county chairman has said is zero tolerance.

Meanwhile, Lee Chin whose experience brought the issue out into the open in Wexford, is doing what he excels at. He is focussed on training for the Leinster semi- final game against Dublin next Sunday.

When the racism issue was highlighted, the young player was inundated with requests for media interviews but Wexford football manager Jason Ryan advised him to step back from the spotlight to concentrate on the challenge ahead.

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