A young black sportsman from Donegal has opened up about his experience of being racially abused while playing in the county.
Rahman Balogun says he has been the victim of racial taunts while playing Gaelic football, soccer, and basketball.
The 24-year-old, born in Italy to Nigerian parents, has lived in Donegal Town since he was 10. The family moved to Ireland as asylum seekers and, after his parents were returned to Nigeria, Balogun was fostered in Donegal.
While he says he was taunted about his colour as a youngster, the issue came to a head in 2018, during a game with Four Masters in the All-County Football League.
“One player grabbed me, threw me to the ground, and called me a ‘black f**ker’,” Balogun said.
It had been going on and on and on. I couldn’t handle it any more. It had happened before to me, but that was the first day that I reacted. I took my jersey off and punched the fence as I walked off. I was angry with myself for doing that.
“I just snapped. I felt like I wanted to beat this guy up which is something I have never felt before. I went mad, took off my jersey, and just walked off the pitch.
“After, the referee said he would put in a report. I said I didn’t want a big deal, but just to let it be known that it happened to me.”
Balogun, who graduated from Letterkenny Institute of Technology last year, works in the All Sports sports shop in Donegal Town.
Having walked off the Tir Chonaill Park pitch on the day of the first incident, Balogun had a similar experience a while later during a reserve game.
On that occasion, an opponent told him to ‘go back to your own country’.
He said: “The guy who said it that day was trying to fight with me. I got thick, I went out of character, and I kicked him. I was so raged that I did that. I didn’t know how to react. I took the jersey off and walked off.
“The overall emotion by people at the time was to go to the media and tell them what happened, but I remember thinking at the time I didn’t want to make a big fuss and just wanted the issue quietly addressed by the club and the GAA.
“Because I didn’t make a fuss the first time, everyone presumed I would just take this on the chin. Nothing was done to tackle the issue. It wasn’t even brought up to me after the match. Peoples’ mindsets were to simply not get involved. A lot of people probably just took it as a sly comment, whether it was or not, I felt it’s still racist and still bothers me that nobody off the pitch or in the GAA did something.“