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"I was getting 'you Irish, black...'" - Curtis Fleming on racism in football

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

01:14 23 May 2019

Former Ireland international Curtis Fleming was on Wednesday’s OTB AM and recounted his experience with racism in British football and the issues that black coaches still face today.

Fleming was talking about the racial abuse of 19-year-old Juventus player Moise Kean by Cagliari fans in April this season which led him to recount his own memory of racism he suffered during his career.

“I played Sunderland in a derby game and I was getting monkey chants", the former Middlesbrough defender recalled.

"I played down in Wales for Middlesbrough and I was getting you Irish, black – I was everything. At that time it was more acceptable but it's not acceptable now. So, I think the powers that be have to stand up now and need to stop worrying about money and kudos.”

Fleming was also the target of racist chanting in 2007 when he played for Shelbourne against Steau Bucharest in the Champions League qualifiers.

Relating his own experience back to the Kean incident this season, Fleming said: “He’s a young kid who scored an incredible goal and he has 10,000 people making monkey chants at him, is that acceptable? It's not acceptable.”

Fleming also had a lot to say about the position of black managers in British football and was until this week a first-team coach with Middlesbrough and was previously assistant manager at Queens Park Rangers.

“When I go into a job I don't think I am a black Irish fella looking for a coaching job. When I go in, I am a coach first and foremost and if they don't like my nationality or they don't like my colour then alright we have a problem and I will highlight that.”

Discussing the recent comments of Danny Rose that earning coaching badges was pointless because of a lack of opportunity for black coaches, Fleming disagreed but noted that if players have these attitudes then the Football Association needed to do more to educate players on opportunities in the game.

“If everyone’s saying there are no jobs there and you won't get a job, I'm thinking if I'm a young coach starting I’d go and take up tennis if you are all telling me there is no chance getting a job in the game I love. I think there are chances there we just need to keep banging the drum.”

“I don't think it’s a waste of time but if that is the perception of these people coming through who love the game, and want to stay in the game, then there is a problem at the top, there's a problem with the country, with the league and sometimes it’s about society."

Fleming added that if players such as Danny Rose and his teammates believe that there is a lack of opportunity for them to get involved with coaching then football could risk losing the experience of a whole generation of international footballers just because of the colour of their skin.

“I think the FA need to be a lot stronger”, Fleming concluded.

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