Limerick’s image as the European City of Sport suffered a blow yesterday after Manchester City’s Gaël Clichy claimed he was subjected to racism in the city on Sunday night.
Clichy wrote on Twitter that bananas were thrown onto the pitch as he played against Limerick FC in a friendly at Thomond Park.
The French international defender tweeted: “How sad to see ‘bananas thrown on the pitch’ tonight... Knowing people around the world need food. #nowordsforthis.”
The banana is said to have been thrown from a tiered standing area about 15 metres to the right of where the Manchester City team and management were sitting.
Chief Superintendent David Sheahan of Henry St Garda Station said he had “heard rumours that vile racist language was also directed at a number of black Manchester City players”, but that there was, as yet, “no evidence” to back up these claims.
In advance of the claim, Gerry McLoughlin, the Limerick mayor, had described the game as “another momentous occasion for Limerick reinforcing our reputation as Ireland’s leading sporting destination”.
However, the city’s politicians were yesterday furious at the incident, which made headlines across the world.
“I’m disappointed, as someone who is involved in actively encouraging people into the city,” said former Limerick mayor, Joe Leddin. “It’s very regretful but I’d like to think... that it’s a one-off. I don’t recall any incident like it before.
The match is expected to have generated €6m for the Mid-West economy.
About 20,000 people watched the game at the park. Manchester City TV, Setanta Sports, and Saudi Arabian television showed the match live.
Limerick FC yesterday said in a statement: “Limerick FC officials met with Thomond Park officials and local gardaí this afternoon to continue attempts to identify a person that threw an offensive object onto the playing field during the friendly game on Sunday night.
“An incident of this nature is completely un-acceptable and is fully condemned by Limerick FC and Thomond Park. CCTV footage is still being analysed and when the offending party is identified appropriate action will be taken.
“It is deeply upsetting that the actions of one individual have soured the experience for all those in attendance.”
Yesterday, one tweeter replied to Clichy’s Twitter allegation by apologising to him “on behalf of the people of Ireland”.
Another tweeter said: “...some vile people in Limerick”, and begged the French player not to “let this spoil your impression of Ireland, please”.
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