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Dublin: 6°C Monday 19 April 2021

'It certainly didn't affect him' - Support for Ireland U21 striker after recent racist abuse

Jim Crawford praised Jonathan Afolabi for the way he handled the recent vile comments aimed at him.

Jonathan Afolabi (file pic).
Jonathan Afolabi (file pic).
Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

IRELAND U21 manager Jim Crawford has backed Jonathan Afolabi, praising his bravery, after the young striker recently highlighted vile racist messages he was subjected to on social media.

The 21-year-old Dubliner was born in Ireland to Nigerian parents. He is currently on loan at Dundee from Celtic, and received a number of racist messages on Instagran after scoring a stoppage-time equaliser during a 3-2 extra-time Scottish Cup win over Bonnyrigg Rose earlier this month.

“I spoke to Jonathan Afolabi the following morning, it happened on the Saturday evening,” Crawford said. “We had an extensive chat about it, the basic message that came from it, the comments didn’t affect or bother him, but what he did want to do is get the message out that there are some idiots out there that are not educated enough to realise we’re all the same people.

“Thankfully for himself, it didn’t hit him that hard. When I got message on the Saturday night, I said I’d ring him first thing Sunday morning. I thought it might have hurt him but certainly not.  

“He’s a fantastic character, a player with unbelievable ability, these external factors can affect people, but it certainly didn’t affect him, I thought it was very brave of him to get message out, and let it be known there are still racist incidents happening in football. It’s important he got the message out for sure.” 

Crawford also discussed the form of two of his other strikers — Michael Obafemi and Troy Parrott — who will both feel their respective seasons could have gone better so far.

Obafemi is currently out injured and found himself out of favour at Southampton earlier in the campaign when he was fit.

And Tottenham striker Parrott, while he has got some much-needed first-team action on loan at Millwall, has yet to score in the Championship, having made 14 appearances for the Lions in all compertitions.

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“Each case is different, with regards Troy and Michael, they’re exceptional pros. Troy Parrott at the minute needs a goal with Millwall. He’s still playing well in general play. There’s been massive hype surrounding both players, but they’re still young players.

“Troy is starting regularly with Millwall, although didn’t start the other night or come on. But he played against Bristol City in the FA Cup at the weekend and did fine, but I just think needs goal to kick on. When you work with somebody like Troy at close quarters, [you realise] he’s a fantastic talent, an unbelievable finisher. But he’s still a young boy, we’ve got to give him time. Troy has got to work hard at his game, he’s got to listen to the really good coaches in the UK to develop to his full potential.

“Michael unfortunately has suffered a bad injury, where he had to have an operation. That happened a day or two before he was down to start against Liverpool with Southampton’s first team. It just shows how close and unfortunate he was not to clock up another first team appearance. He could have scored, who knows what would have happened. But Michael’s a big character to get over this injury and get on with his football and get back to the heights he was at.”

Crawford also had words of encouragement for another Southampton player who has plenty of Premier League minutes under his belt and is currently out injured — Will Smallbone. The 20-year-old is set for a long spell on the sidelines after suffering an ACL injury.

“The injury happened against Leicester. I was watching the game and he was doing fantastically well. All of a sudden, he came off after an hour or so. I texted him to make sure everything was okay and he was getting a scan. I rang him after and found out he’d hurt his ACL.

“He certainly was down about it but previous to that, he had two injuries. He hurt his quad, he made a recovery, then hurt his other quad and then all of a sudden he’s out again for an extensive period of time. 

“I said all it is is a setback that will make him stronger. He’s getting his surgery today, so I just wish him well in his road to recovery, and hopefully he gets back to doing what does best, playing football at a very high level. He has high potential for sure.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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