Darren Randolph has said he hopes that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement will prove a turning point.
And as the Premier League returns, the West Ham and Ireland goalkeeper is expecting that football will play a visible part in the fight against racism.
“I think there will be a lot more protests,” he said. “If someone scores a goal maybe there will be different messages put on their shirts to celebrate and try and get the message across. Definitely for now the issue isn’t going to go away and it is just going to keep on getting highlighted.
“There have been different incidences in the past with racism in sport and people tend to talk about it for a day or two and it’s gone, whereas I am hoping this will be a turning point and it just gathers momentum.”
Speaking about his own experience of racism growing up in Ireland, the Bray-born 33-year-old said: “As far back as primary school I am fairly confident I was the only mixed-race in my primary school. I was aware from a young age I was different just from my skin tone alone. Kids being kids in the playground or you're playing football, different things are being said and people will laugh about it.
“When you are young you don't probably understand the seriousness of what's said or what certain terms or words mean. So, yeah, there were certain times where I would get upset about it. Looking back now I would probably get more angry or upset, because I know where those words and phrases came from and what they meant and the full background on everything.”
Randolph said that, in his experience, racist abuse was even more prevalent in the heightened context of competitive sport.
“It definitely brought it out more and I think this is probably more so why, when I was a little bit older, I enjoyed playing Gaelic because if we were travelling somewhere - whether it be Wicklow or when we moved into playing some Dublin teams - if there was anything said on the Gaelic pitch obviously you are able to shoulder someone, or if someone is running with the ball you are able to throw in a sly punch. It sounds bad to say, but it was my way of getting my own back.
“Whereas playing football back when I was younger, whether it be in Wicklow or Dublin leagues, people would be able to stand or sit beside the goals (and) there is not much that can be done.
“And then, as I said, when I was younger coming up against other teams in Wicklow and Dublin, I don’t remember coming up against another team with a mixed-race or black player on. So maybe I was made more aware of it and it made me more determined to do better.”
Beyond the resumption of the Premier League, Randolph is looking forward to the return of the international game, noting that new Ireland manager Stephen Kenny faces added challenges in preparing his team for the postponed Euros play-off against Slovakia because of football’s long lockdown. UEFA are now expected to confirm plans for that the game to be played in early October, most likely on the 7th.
“It’s not ideal,” Randolph said. “Obviously he’d like more time to get the players together and to try and look at people and try to implement his own style and his own way he wants to play football. It just means that when we meet up we are going to have to try and cram as much training sessions and information into the lads as possible in a short space of time"
- Darren Randolph was speaking on Episode 2 of 'Bench Talk', Basketball Ireland's new weekly interview series, which is available on Basketball Ireland’s social media channels.