A sectarian attack on a minibus full of junior soccer players in which four boys were injured was condemned by a police chief today.
The boys suffered cuts and bruises when up to 30 loyalists hurled missiles at the vehicle as it was leaving a football tournament in Ballymena, Co Antrim, late yesterday.
District Commander, Superintendent Terry Shevlin, said it was the latest incident in the town where young people playing junior soccer had been subjected to “sectarian thuggery”.
In a previous incident less than a month ago republican youths attacked players and supports of a team perceived to be Protestant, he said.
He said in the latest case the aggressors appeared to be a group of some 30 loyalists who surrounded an under-16 team from Carnlough, on the Antrim coast, as they were about to leave the venue in the Ballykeel area.
“The young footballers who were perceived to be Roman Catholics, were subjected to a frightening experience as the crowd proceeded to smash a window in the minibus injuring four boys who received cuts and bruises,” he said.
The Superintendent said: “I utterly condemn and deplore this type of sectarian aggression, which seems to be focusing on junior soccer, where teams are being targeted by the perceived religious affiliation of their young players.”
He said it was a most disturbing trend, which if not stamped out, would have “serious consequences for the future of the sport in the area and for overall community relations”.