Nacho Novo on the shock of his death threat, and how Glentoran support helped him through
Former Rangers star Nacho Novo has opened up about the difficult time in his life after receiving a death threat from dissident republicans last year when he was playing for Irish League side Glentoran.
The sporting world in Northern Ireland was outraged 11 months ago when it was revealed the PSNI had informed Novo that he had been threatened and would need to improve his personal security.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the 38-year-old Spaniard said that while he found the death threat impossible to comprehend and tough to deal with, he was determined to carry on playing for the east Belfast outfit during that period.
Novo, who left the Glens in May and is now hoping to enter management, said he was grateful for the support he received right across Northern Ireland.
The striker, a huge favourite with Rangers fans after a successful six year spell at Ibrox, joined Glentoran in a blaze of publicity in July 2016.
Two months later he was facing a threat against his life.
Initially the threat was reported to be 'severe' before being reduced to 'low'. Novo had to miss training sessions for his personal security, but bravely refused to let the threat stop him playing.
"At the time it was tough because I couldn't believe it had happened, but I am the type of guy that just keeps going and wanted to do my job. Nothing was going to put me off from that," said Novo. "Hearing the news about the threat was hard because you would not want that to happen to anyone, but I got lots of support and that was important to me.
"The support came from everywhere and I appreciated it, because what happened to me was nothing to do with football. Lots of football fans from different clubs were very supportive and it showed to me about the community in Northern Ireland.
"It was nice for me to know that people were thinking about me at a difficult time in my life and it was something I was thankful for."
A happier time for Novo in Northern Ireland came when he and agent Bill Peden, along with Belfast-based charity SOS, organised a Christmas visit to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast to give around 300 presents to kids staying in the children's unit over the festive period. Novo recalled it as an emotional and heartwarming experience.
"I wanted to do something different. At the start we were going to try and make a Christmas dinner for people in east Belfast who didn't have as much because of their financial situation, but not as many people as we wanted would gain from it, so I thought the best thing would be to do something nice for the kids at hospital," said Novo.
"When I played for Rangers, all the players would go and see the kids in hospital in Glasgow and take them surprises.
"I thought that was a good idea for Belfast and it was something to give back to the community and to try help the children in hospital. It was an emotional day and I was very happy to be able to do it.
"The most important thing was to put smiles on the faces of the kids and for me that meant the world."