Football cancelled by flag protest

Matthew Collins - 16 02 13
Game over: Sad scenes on Shore Road

Game over: Sad scenes on Shore Road

Sad scenes in North Belfast this afternoon as the top of the table Irish premier League clash between rivals Crusaders and Cliftonville has had to be called off due to threats and protests.

A full house of some 5000 spectators was expected to be at ‘Seaview’, Crusaders’ home ground today, to see the two teams, with victory for Cliftonville as good as guaranteeing them the Irish Premiership. They lead the table by twelve points.

Ahead of the game, both clubs issued a statement that they wanted this game to be a derby match, and not a flag issue. Crusaders are a nominally Protestant supported club and Cliftonville’s support is drawn from the Nationalist community. Only a few hundred metres separate the two clubs’ grounds.

A quick look at the team sheets for both clubs however, tells you that neither club fields a team drawn exclusively from one community. Despite the short distance between the two grounds, it has not been uncommon for fans to travel between the two club’s using transport to avoid walking through flash point areas.

A carnival atmosphere had been planned by the two sets of supporters and the two clubs. At 2pm today, a group of Crusaders supporters in club colours were to meet Cliftonville supporters who wanted to walk to the game in a wonderful gesture.

Unfortunately, it appears that hundreds of protestors have moved into the area to block the route of Cliftonville supporters and there has been some disorder and threats making the game impossible to proceed. Police are now on Shore Road, where the Seaview ground is, as thousands of now displaced football fans can no longer make their way home.

The protestors have in the main travelled to North Belfast to stop Cliftonville fans displaying the Irish tricolour as they do, legally, at all their football matches.

As someone who regularly watches Crusaders play, even holding the Irish FA Cup after they won it, I am bitterly disappointed and saddened people have brought this to the football club, a club that thrives on building an environment that is sectarian and racism free.

Linfield were away today.


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