(Reuters) - Stoke City’s 5-2 win at Huddersfield Town on Wednesday was briefly halted due to sectarian abuse aimed at Ireland winger James McClean, with an announcement being made that the match would be abandoned if the abuse did not stop.
Stoke’s McClean has been a target for refusing to wear a poppy on his shirt on Remembrance Day after he cited the 1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre, where British soldiers killed unarmed protesters in his hometown of Derry, as the reason for not wearing one.
Poppies are worn as a symbol of remembrance, honouring those who lost their lives in various conflicts.
The 30-year-old was the target of a popular right wing terrace chant aimed at the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and he complained to the referee, who stopped the second tier game in line with the Football League’s anti-discrimination protocol.
An announcement was made warning the fans at the John Smith’s Stadium that “offensive behaviour is affecting the game and will not be tolerated” and McClean applauded the move, after which no further abuse was heard.
“James has been encouraged to report abuse he receives of a sectarian nature to the match official,” Stoke manager Michael O’Neill told reporters.
“He did it on Boxing Day when he was subjected to it by Sheffield Wednesday fans and he felt the need to do it today. He’s 100% right to do so... People have to be held accountable for their behaviour when they come to a football stadium.”
Huddersfield boss Danny Cowley condemned the offensive chants and said the club would take action against the guilty parties.
“There’s no place for discrimination of any type whatsoever,” he said. “The club will investigate and ensure the people involved will be duly punished.”
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan
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