LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Northern Irish soccer fans caught on video singing an anti-Catholic song face being banned from attending games, the sport’s governing association said.
The short video clip posted to Twitter shows several people wearing Northern Ireland jerseys singing “We hate Catholics, we hate Roman Catholics” to the tune of of the 1987 hit song ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ by Tiffany.
— Piarais Mac Alastair (@piarais91) March 25, 2019
The Northern Ireland soccer team beat Belarus 2-1 in a European Championships qualifying match on Sunday evening.
Initially, the Irish Football Association replied on Twitter March 25 by saying, “This is utterly wrong and we condemn sectarianism in any form,” before expanding on the statement the following day.
“The Irish FA condemns sectarianism of any kind. The chanting in the video was wrong and if those involved can be identified, the Association will work to ensure that they are prevented from getting tickets for Northern Ireland matches,” the government body said on Tuesday.
The Irish Football Association (IFA) governs the sport in Northern Ireland, while the Football Association of Ireland is in charge of soccer in the Republic of Ireland.
Traditionally, Catholics in Ireland followed Gaelic sports such as Gaelic football and hurling, while Protestants followed English sports, such as soccer and rugby.
Although both soccer and rugby have increased in popularity among Catholics on both sides of the border, Catholics in Northern Ireland usually follow the Republic of Ireland national team. (Some teams, such as the rugby team, are “all-Ireland” and represent both North and South.)
In recent years, the Northern Ireland national team has tried to broaden its appeal and has recruited Catholic players and fans. Still, many Catholics cite sectarianism as the reason they don’t support the team, even though sectarian chanting is rare and punishable at the stadium itself.
Sinead Ennis, a member of Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly and the Sinn Féin party’s spokesperson on sports, said the IFA must follow through on its pledge.
Sinn Féin is the main Irish nationalist party in Northern Ireland.
“The IFA have rightly condemned the actions of these so-called supporters, but they also need to ensure that stringent steps are taken to identify and punish those involved,” she said in a statement.
Ennis said the people in the video should be banned from attending matches, and reported to the police, adding “there should be zero tolerance to such disgusting displays of hate.”
“There can be no place for this in sport. It is a hate crime and every possible step should be taken to stamp it out,” she said.