Coleraine stars help Cameron show school bullies red card with invite to training session
Players from an Irish League club have stepped in to help a young fan after learning he was being bullied at school.
Footballers from Coleraine FC were moved to act after learning of 10-year-old Cameron McAfee's troubles.
Club captain Stephen O'Donnell contacted Cameron's dad Iain and suggested that he bring his son to watch the players at training on Tuesday evening and even allowed him to take part in the session.
The Coleraine squad, who were runners-up in the Danske Bank Premiership last season, wanted to show Cameron that he will always have friends at the club and to reward him for having the courage to tell his dad that he was being bullied.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr McAfee said the gesture made the world to his son and he hopes other children will be inspired to follow Cameron's lead and speak up if they have problems at school.
"Cameron told me how he was having a bit of a hard time and was being bullied," he said.
"He spent quite a bit of time in tears and it was clear he was struggling.
"Later I vented my own feelings on social media to get it off my chest more than anything else and that sparked an enormous reaction."
Among those who commented was the Bannsiders' captain O'Donnell, who suggested Iain bring his son down to the training session.
Mr McAfee added: "Cameron is a big fan of Coleraine, we both are, and he is a familiar face there.
"Some of the other players also contacted me saying they hoped Cameron was all right and asking if there was anything they could do.
"We did go to the training and the players went out of their way for Cameron, even allowing him on to the pitch to take part in the training with them.
"The kindness shown by the players at Coleraine is typical of them, they are big-hearted and the fuss they made of Cameron really did make a difference to him," he added.
"So many people said how brave Cameron was by speaking up about what he was going through - and he was.
"The one thing I would like to come out of this is for any other child who is going through something like this to have the same courage and tell a parent what they are going through.
"So many children think they are on their own and have to deal with bullies on their own, but by speaking up to an adult they trust it gets sorted."
Skipper Stephen O'Donnell said he and his team-mates were glad to help.
He added: "I told him that he's the only one in his class who has 25 mates that all play for Coleraine.
"Hopefully we can finish Cameron's week off with three points on Saturday just for him."
Coleraine, who are sixth in the table, play their derby rivals Ballymena United at home on Saturday.
And Coleraine winger Josh Carson also backed Cameron, saying bullying was "a coward's game and should not be condoned or tolerated".
He added: "It was great to have Cameron down at training and to see a smile on his face - we are all behind him here at Coleraine FC."
The players' gesture has been widely shared online and drawn praise from other fans.
Larne fan Norma Wallace said: "Well done, what a lovely thing to do."
Neil Armstrong, who is a fan of Ballinamallard FC, said: "Well done Coleraine, lovely gesture."