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Damien Delaney recounts racist...
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Damien Delaney recounts racist incident involving Wilfried Zaha

Thom Malone
Thom Malone

22:12 12 Aug 2020

Damien Delaney was in the Off The Ball studio on Wednesday evening where spoke about Wilfried Zaha experiencing racist abuse on the pitch

The chat followed Cyrus Christie on OTB AM detailing his experiences of racism at an Ireland training session, among other places.

Delaney can see how racism in English stadia is still an issue.

"You go back as far as the 1908s and see what happened to players like John Barnes, bananas being thrown on the pitch," said Delaney.

"A lot of kids at that time grew up witnessing that and they are still going to football matches now because they are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Sometimes they lose the run of themselves and it comes out."

As to specific incidents, one involved Palace's Ivorian winger Zaha.

"We need to eradicate that type of behaviour. I've seen and heard some pretty horrific things, not weekly.

"I remember at Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha used to get dogs' abuse. He was a player that would wind up opposition fans, but he got racially abused several times.

"I heard it as well, so I'm getting to the point where I'm going to Wilf: 'Don't get upset now, we'll deal with it afterwards. Just keep your head in the game and don't lose your temper and get involved with those fans. We can do it through the proper channels after the game.'

"It's not nice to listen to."

Delaney questioned with hindsight if they should have just walked off.

"I'd say there were times where Wilf did want to walk off the pitch," said the ex-Ireland international.

Delaney is hopeful of a better future even if the shadow of racism still exists in football.

"Society has changed now, where this [racism] is so unacceptable," said Delaney.

"Not that it was ever acceptable, but there was an element of 'Ah, they are just some fools, they don't mean it. They are just trying to throw you off your game.'

"There has been a monumental shift in behaviour, in culture, in everything in these last 12 months and players are actually highlighting it. It's a great thing that they are.

"The more it gets highlighted the more you can educate these kids.

"I did hear some horrific things though. In the changing room, yes it's racism, but it was more outdated stereotypes.

"Using words, how you would refer to certain people. you did hear it and you look at the guy and he's older, kind of a different generation.

"You're going 'you can't really say that anymore.' Those words are not really acceptable in our society because they have negative connotations."

Given his own experiences and listening to what Cyrus Christie had to say on racism, Delaney is clear on how to combat the issue among young people.

"Cyrus was talking about education, that is key," said the former Palace player.

"Him raising this issue has gotten people talking about it now and maybe a lot of people up and down the country are going to their kids and saying it.

"So, the parents need to sit down and educate their children. Not just educate them by saying  'this word is bad and this word is good.'

"It's educating them on why a certain word is bad, depending on the child's age, but you need to imprint that in their memory."


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Crystal Palace Damien Delaney Premier League Racism Wilfried Zaha

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