Soccer coach voices racism concerns

A prominent local soccer coach and parent has warned that more needs to be done to erradicate the problem at grassroots level.Former Dundalk Schoolboys League Secretary and Seatown FC official, Edwin de Roever believes racism is a growing issue that will have to be tackled by league officials, coaches and managers at all levels of the game.In a candid interview the Dutch native admitted to ‘losing it’ during a recent underage game involving his club Seatown after he was told to ‘go home’ to his ‘own country’, but also revealed a more worrying incident involving one of his players earlier in the season when he was subjected to racial abuse from an opponent.While the incident itself was a traumitic experience for the player, Edwin was just as concerned about what he perceived to be a lack of disciplinary action taken by the Dundalk Schoolboys League and the FAI.’One of our players lost his temper and kicked out at one of their players,’ Edwin revealed, adding that the Seatown player in question was ‘rightly’ sent-off.However, he was subjected to racial abuse by the player he fouled and he too received a red card from the referee.’The problem was their player only got a one game ban and our player was suspended for five games.’We were told we could appeal the decision, but you have to go to Dublin and take time off work and it’s very rarely they overturn a decision anyway. I talked with the boy’s parents and we agreed to write a letter to the FAI about it.’The FAI contacted me and seemed disgusted about it. They told me we had three avenues available to us. Firstly, the FAI could write a letter to the league to make them aware that the way they dealt with it was wrong. Secondly we could go to the league’s child protection officer or go the appeal route.’The boy’s parents wanted to go to the Gardai at first and I persuaded them we should go to the FAI first, but in hindsight maybe we should have gone to the Gardai.’While that was one of the more serious incidents, Edwin insists that Seatown have experienced similar situations in recent seasons and he feels it’s time something was done to curb the problem.’We have a lot of foreign nationals in our club from Africa, Ukraine, Latvia. Four times in the last two seasons we have had to deal with racist abuse and nothing has been done about it.’We have raised it with the league, but unless the referee puts it in his report they can do nothing about it. Referees are volunteers too though.’In another incident, Edwin claims he was the subject of racial abuse by parents of an opposing team.’I was told to go home to my own country, go back to Holland, a few times, during a game.’ he said, before admitting he then ‘lost it’ and was sent-off.’It’s not just racsim, it’s abuse in general and I know I was part of it all, but it wasn’t until I was sent off and had to stand behind the fence that I realised what I was doing and how crazy the situation has become.’It’s been going on for years and years, particularly with fathers who have talented sons on a team and I think we all have to come to the realisation that it’s only a game of football.’I don’t have an answer. I hope if people read about it and hear about it they will come to a realisation that it has to stop. I’ve been a coach here for 14 years, but the fun is totally gone for me now because of this.’In relation to the FAI’s and Dundalk Schoolboys League’s handling of the incidents in question, Edwin beleives more could have been done to ensure similar situations don’t arise in the future.’I don’t think it’s going far enough, but I accept that it’s a sensitive and slow process.’But I’m not afraid to hide on this and I know a lot of people feel the same way about it all,’ he added.In response to Mr de Roever’s concerns, current Dundalk Schoolboys League secretary, Larry Gorham insisted that the league are committed to taking a hard line on racism issues.However, in the case where a player only received a one-match suspension for alleged racist abuse, Mr Gorham revealed: ‘ We felt in that case the player said it in the heat of the moment and I understand he apologised straight afterwards.’We would never condone the kind of abuse Edwin received himself either, but it wasn’t submitted in the referee’s report and, unfortunately, our hands are tied when that happens.
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