Belfast Telegraph

Restaurateur racially abused by Northern Ireland fans wants people to learn from experience

By Michael Sheils McNamee

A man who suffered racial verbal abuse in Belfast has said he hopes something positive can come from the incident.

Ali Askir (46), owner of restaurant SAFA and founder of the Irish Curry Awards, was driving through the Village area of south Belfast on Saturday at around 4pm on his way to his vehicle's MOT, when he said a group of Northern Ireland football fans began racist chanting "p*** Irish b******".

He said one of the group attempted to open his car door.

"The vast majority of people were going by and getting into their cars with their children and wives and families. It was a just a handful of people," Mr Askir said.

"One or two of them just got started and the rest joined in.

"Some of them were quite detailed in what they were saying.

"They were saying, 'oh we see that car around all the time. We'll burn it, we'll kill you'."

While he said those involved appeared to be football fans, Mr Askir said he was keen people should not focus on this.

"The vast majority of people who go to Northern Ireland football matches, they are just like you and me. It is only a small element.

"Regardless if they were wearing a GAA t-shirt or a Northern Ireland t-shirt, the bad apples are always going to be bad, no matter where you put them," he said.

Since coming to Northern Ireland in 1989, Mr Askir said he had been subject to a number of racist incidents, but had learnt to deal with them in a different way over time.

He hoped there was an opportunity to "educate those responsible in their opinions about ethnic minorities and how life works". He added: "I think we should highlight these things in a positive way, so people can learn and the younger ones behind us can learn.

"As you know, Northern Ireland is very multi-cultural at the moment and tolerance has to be there to live side-by-side.

"For me to share my experiences will hopefully lead to a good outcome in the future."

Police confirmed yesterday that they had launched an investigation into an incident of racial abuse in the Donegall Avenue/Kitchener Street area near Windsor Park.

Northern Ireland had earlier been defeated by Bosnia and Herzegovina in a home game at the stadium.

Following the incident, Mr Askir wrote about his experience on Twitter, saying: "I'm not too sure after today's incident whether I'm glad to be in Belfast or not, racial chanting simply because my motor says Irish Curry Awards."

Mr Askir received support on social media, with the official account of the IFA inviting him to be a VIP guest at Northern Ireland's game against Austria.

He confirmed that he would be taking up the offer to attend the match.

The chairman of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs, Gary McAllister, said the behaviour was "not what Northern Ireland fans are about".

He told the BBC: "People don't want our fans to behave like that. Anybody going to a match or otherwise wearing their Northern Ireland shirt shouldn't behave like this towards other people and should be respectful.

"At the end of the day it gives everyone a bad name and it doesn't reflect what we are, or what we are about."

Responding to Mr Askir's social media post, loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said: "This is totally wrong & not reflective of NI fans."

Belfast Telegraph

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