Belfast Telegraph

Portuguese footballers left in fear for their lives after attackers break into Northern Ireland home

By Leona O'Neill

Three young Portuguese footballers have had to leave their Co Tyrone home after being attacked by men who claimed they were from the far right National Front.

On Monday night, the players from Sofia Farmer FC - an intermediate football club playing in the Premier division of the Ballymena and Provincial League - were attacked in their Main Street home by four men who forced their way in.

The young players said that the intruders called them "black b******s", told them to go home and that they "didn't belong in Coagh because it was a loyalist area".

Alberto De Barros, who co-owns the team with former Manchester United and Portugal international Nani, said the boys are now terrified to go back to the house.

"We have three houses, one in Draperstown, one in Cookstown and one in Coagh," he said.

"The Coagh house, we have been having problems with this last four months.

"There are four Portuguese players living at the Coagh house for the past year.

"The boys there have been subjected to verbal abuse, people shout insults at the house when passing, they throw cans at the windows, youths ask them for fights and someone told the boys that the house would be burnt down.

"We never thought it would escalate. We are all black, we are used to this from a young age. But two weeks ago the house was burgled. Money and passports were stolen."

But the abuse escalated to a new level on Monday night, when four men invaded the property.

"They kicked the door in, forced their way in and came in and beat them up," said Mr De Barros.

"They said that they were going to kill the boys, they called them racist names, they called them 'black b******s' and said that they didn't belong here.

"They said they were from the National Front and that Coagh was a loyalist area, that they needed to get out and go home to their own country.

"The boys are in their early twenties. They were crying and said they wanted to go home.

"One of them has already left the country.

"He's a professional footballer.

"He says he's not going back. The other boys I have had to put up in a hotel. They are afraid to come back but they will. We will not be pushed out by a few individuals who think they own Coagh."

Alberto says he is greatly saddened by the attack, particularly since he advertises Northern Ireland as a great footballing destination around the world.

"Wherever I go, I speak so well about Northern Ireland and the football scene here and the people," he said. "I tell people how brilliant it is. We have more players coming over on Monday and this makes me very sad that this has happened.

"It is very complicated to have to explain to these players that four or five people here can have such an attitude.

"I am so sad that people will hear the news about the country that I spoke so well about. I know that it is not the people of Coagh, but just a few individuals. The boys are scared, some of them are frightened to go back to Coagh. But at the minute we have nowhere to put them.

"We will talk to people such as the police and the politicians and tell them all that these boys are just here to play football, they don't get involved in anything to do with politics."

A police spokesperson said that two men have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Belfast Telegraph


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