Kerr was target of racist hate mail

BRIAN KERR has revealed that he received racist hate mail during his time as manager of the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking at the launch of a major sport against racism initiative in Dublin, Kerr said that he had notified the Gardaí about the letters, which had attacked the then Irish manager for having black personnel in the dug-out and on the pitch.

Kerr also took the opportunity of his first press conference since losing his position as Irish manager to wish his successor Steve Staunton all the best in the job.

Kerr was in Croke Park to launch ‘The Brian Kerr Intercontinental League’, a six-week tournament involving teams from Ireland’s ethnic communities, organised by Sport Against Racism In Ireland (SARI).

A long-time supporter of SARI, Kerr revealed his own experience of racism in the world of football.

“While I was manager of the Irish team I had to put up with a series of fairly vile abusive letters about the multiculturalism of the Irish team, because I had Chris Hughton, a very Irish black man on the staff, and I had black players in the team, like Clinton Morrison and Steven Reid. It was the first time I’ve really come across it up front and up close to me. It was vile stuff but it was sad really - and it just shows you that there’s some twisted minds around the place.

“The letters came from different sources but names and addresses were scarce, as you can imagine. I passed that stuff onto the Gardaí. It just shows you the mentality that can be around the place, instead of seeing the gifts these players and coaches had and how they had done a fantastic job and continue to do so. And they’re Irish as Irish can be. It emphasised for me how narrow-minded people can be but also the responsibility of people in sport to rid ourselves of that type of thinking.”

Asked for his reaction to the appointment of Steve Staunton as the new Irish manager, Kerr replied: “I wish him the best of luck. There’s an interesting group of people now running the team.

“Like anyone who has a real passion for Irish football, a real love for it and who wants success for us in sport, I hope they have success in the future and good luck to them with it.”

Kerr said that he had turned down “a few jobs” since losing his Irish position and confirmed that he has applied for the job of manager of the South African team which could arise after the African Cup of Nations. However, he again strongly denied a recent report which suggested that he was on the verge of being appointed.

“There was a ‘flyer’ going around last week that caused me a little bit of awkwardness for a couple of days,” he said. “Because nothing had happened, nothing had changed in relation to the situation with regards South Africa or anything else. I’ve been offered a few jobs, I haven’t taken them. In relation to South Africa, the Africa Nations’ Cup is starting this week, they have a manager in place and the association is fully supporting him in that job. We’ll see what happens from there but I’ve had no negotiations whatsoever or direct contact personally with the South African football association.”

Kerr commented on the opening of Croke Park to soccer and paid particular tribute to GAA boss Sean Kelly. Whilst admitting to ‘lots of concerns’ about the stadium as a venue for soccer, Kerr pointed out: “It’s nothing to do with me now. I said what I had to say about it to the appropriate people at the time and I’m sure other people will have their angles about it. It’s a great stadium, the dimensions required for rugby and soccer are obviously different but all those issues I’m sure can be dealt with.

“It means they will have room for a lot more people to go to the matches in the future. I’m delighted for everyone involved. I think Sean Kelly has done fantastic work. I’d spoken to him on a couple of occasions in relation to it over the years and I felt that he wanted it to go that way, as did so many people in the GAA. It looks like it’s win all around for everyone.

“I think it shows society has changed here and there’s a bit more openness about it. Some of the people that we’re talking about in this competition (The Intercontinental League), some of them - or their children - might be out here playing (in Croke Park), whether it’s gaelic, rugby or soccer. Then we’re getting somewhere, then we’re making progress.”

The Intercontinental League kicked off in Dalymount Park last night, with a game between China and Poland.

Said Kerr of SARI’s work: “There is now so many people out there who can enrich the game here, can enrich sport here if we’re prepared to embrace them and say we can make it easier for you to enjoy life here in Ireland. It’s all there in front of us.”

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