Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea's Paris race storm: I pushed him off train, but I'm no racist, says ex-policeman Barklie from Northern Ireland

Metro carriage was too full, insists former RUC officer in Chelsea hate row

By Chris Kilpatrick

A former RUC officer embroiled in a race row involving Chelsea football fans has insisted he is innocent.

Richard Barklie is one of three men identified by police investigating the incident on the Paris Metro.

A video appears to show a black man being prevented from boarding a train in the French capital by Chelsea supporters, some of whom were singing racist songs.

Mr Barklie yesterday denied racist chanting and apologised to the man involved.

The 52-year-old, who is from Carrickfergus, is a director of the World Human Rights Forum, a global network of campaigners which lectures on racial tolerance.

He said the man, Souleymane Sylla, was prevented getting onto the train because it was full, not because he is black.

"I'm not a racist and I never have been a racist. I did not take part in any racist singing," he told the Sunday World.

"The train was packed. People were pressed hard against each other.

"It was hot and stuffy and everyone was very uncomfortable.

"Yes there was a lot of racist singing going on, but I never took part in it."

Mr Barklie was one of three men Metropolitan Police said they wanted to speak to following the incident which took place before Chelsea's Champions League game with Paris St Germain.

"People behind me were pushing and he was pushed back off," he added.

"He never attempted to see if there was more room in any of the other carriages.

"He was pushed off simply because the carriage was full, no other reason. It had nothing to do with the colour of his skin."

Mr Barklie said he would be happy to meet the man.

"I would tell him I was sorry for any trauma or stress he received as a result of what happened, but I would also say, it wasn't because he was black," he added.

The incident occurred before the first leg of Chelsea's Champions League clash against Paris St Germain last month.

Video footage appears to show Souleymane Sylla being pushed back on to the platform as some of those on the train chant: "We're racist, we're racist and that's the way we like it".

Five people, not including Mr Barklie, have so far been suspended from Chelsea's stadium following investigations into the incident.

The club has said it will issue life bans to anyone proved to have been involved in the altercation.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said the club were "appalled" by the racial abuse, adding that owner Roman Abramovich is also "disgusted".

Mr Barklie is also an outreach worker for Wave, a cross-community charity which supports Troubles victims. Last week the organisation confirmed they had suspended an individual pending an investigation.

Background

The incident occurred before the first leg of Chelsea's Champions League clash against Paris St Germain.

Video footage appears to show Souleymane Sylla being pushed back as some of those on the train chant: "We're racist, we're racist and that's the way we like it".

Richard Barklie was identified after Met Police released images of three men they wanted to speak to.

The Carrickfergus man is a director of the World Human Rights Forum. He said: "He was pushed off simply because the carriage was full, no other reason."

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