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Catholics choose not to play for 'bigoted' fans

It is with dismay that I note the ongoing concerns of Owen Polley (Comment, May 24) and other Northern Ireland supporters about 'football apartheid' and the Republic poaching players.

They seem to miss a fundamental question: why does this happen? It is not because of some UEFA law; the answer requires a much more profound response.

While I accept that, in recent years, the IFA has done much through the Football for All campaign, many would argue that it is simply too little, too late. The sad fact is that Windsor Park and the at-times poisonous atmosphere there has stopped many Catholics going there, either as players or supporters. For too long, hatred spilled from the stands through the rousing chorus of The Sash or The Billy Boys. The reality is that the majority of Windsor Park-going Northern Ireland fans are Linfield and Rangers-supporting. Hardly a welcoming invitation for young nationalists.

Just why would a young, talented and gifted Catholic footballer want to play for supporters who are so openly bigoted?

Catholic footballers in Northern Ireland are not 'poached' by the Republic - they actively choose not to play for a country that has, for decades, practised gerrymandering against Catholic people.

Northern Ireland supporters need to fully understand the depth of mistrust the Catholic people have about their team, their songs, their stadium and their prejudices.

JOHN REILLY

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