Linfield striker Christy Manzinga has branded racists in football ‘stupid people’ following the Euro 2020 Final last weekend, but reveals he has not been on the receiving end in Northern Ireland.
The 26-year-old from Paris is in his second season at Windsor Park after joining the Blues from Motherwell last year and opened his account for the campaign against Zalgiris Vilnius in the Champions League.
In a revealing interview with Sunday Life Sport, Manzinga talks about his difficult first season with the Blues, how he has learned under David Healy and his love of life in Northern Ireland.
The former Motherwell man is loath to give airtime to the type of racists who overshadowed last Sunday’s Euro 2020 decider, learning from his father in France that they are best ignored.
England stars Marcus Rashord, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were disgracefully abused on social media following their penalty misses in the Final, prompting uproar from the Prime Minister down.
“My father taught me when I was growing up in Paris to ignore these people, for they are just stupid, stupid people,” Manzinga said.
“To be honest, I don’t like to talk about those things. It really is a shame. I’m black, some opponents like to argue with me on the pitch, calling me ‘monkey’ to wind me up, but it’s not normal.
“I have never been racially abused here in Northern Ireland, on or off the pitch, ever. I find Northern Irish people to be so nice and that is something I really like.
“I have been in different countries, there aren’t as many black people here as in some other countries, but I have found people here to be very welcoming.
“We are all the same, it’s just about colour and people can be really stupid. What is the problem?”
Back to matters on the pitch, and the former Paris Saint-Germain youth player has a chance to shine following the departures of fellow goalgetters Shayne Lavery and Andy Waterworth this summer.
Linfield fans only got to see glimpses of Manzinga’s talent last season, which he admits he found challenging due to Covid-19 restrictions.
But his humility does not allow him to consider himself ‘the main man’ at Windsor Park as Linfield look to defend the League and Cup double they won last season.
“It wasn’t easy coming here last year with all the Covid restrictions,” he explains.
“Everything was closed so it was hard for a foreigner like me to settle, to hit the ground running.
“Football is my job as well as my passion, but I am also a human being and I missed my home and my family in Paris.
“I live in Belfast and my team-mates were so good to me, they were so, so nice and that helped, but it was still tough coming to a new country in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
“This next season will be different, I hope. Things are reopening and hopefully the season won’t be as crazy as last year, with two games usually each week.
“That was really hard, not so much physically, more tough mentally — always playing, always playing — and on top of that you have the expectation levels at Linfield, you have to win, win, win all the time.
“The gaffer was really good to me, he spoke to me every day, supported me, encouraged me, gave me advice and he gave me confidence.
“I knew about the gaffer because I remember watching him score for Northern Ireland against Spain, but when I signed for Linfield I didn’t realise it was him I had signed for!
“It’s really exciting to work with him, really good. Some managers who have done what he has done can be arrogant, but David is really normal and very humble.
“He is just a really down to earth guy and I was really surprised to hear he is the man who scored all those goals for Northern Ireland. I want to make him happy and repay him for the help he has given me.
“I don’t consider myself to be the main man now, not at all, and that is one thing I have learned from playing for Linfield here in Northern Ireland, it’s all about the team.
“For us French players, we can be really selfish, as in France it is all about the individual, but here it is much more about the team ethic, the fighting spirit in everyone in the squad.
“There is much more emphasis on the team here in Northern Ireland and I think that has made me a better footballer.
“Shayne was the main man here last year, but he couldn’t have scored all those goals without the help of his team-mates and that is the same for me.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the team winning.”