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Irish soccer star splits opinion in England after turning his back on English flag

Irish soccer international James McClean has set the internet alight this week, after he turned his back on the English flag and refused to join in the national anthem before a friendly match.

McClean, who plays for English club West Brom, was in America on a pre-season tour with his team.

Before a match against Charleston Battery of South Carolina the players stood for the national anthems of each team’s country – America and Britain.

James McClean - Opinion divided in England over Irish star’s refusal to face the English flag before friendly match

However, when the British anthem ‘God Save the Queen’ was played, McClean refused to turn and face the English flag.

His gesture has divided opinions in both Ireland and England. To some it was a needlessly provocative act ahead of a friendly match, while others have praised him for sticking to his principals.

McClean is from Derry, where the Bloody Sunday massacre took place. He also refuses to wear a poppy on his shirt as is traditional in Britain to remember the soldiers who died in the First World War.

In the past McClean explained: “The poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.

“For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different.

“For me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday.”

While there have been plenty of messages of support for the Derry man this week, he has come in for a lot of criticism, some of which has descended into disturbing online abuse.

British journalist Luke Edwards accused McClean of hypocrisy for living and working in England and paying taxes, some of which go to the funding of the British forces.

He wrote: “McClean’s behaviour hints at someone who is not willing to move on, to forgive or forget.”

The Irish Mirror report that McClean’s manager Tony Pulis has warned him that while he respects his Republican stance and his right to expression, he must tone down his anti-British behaviour while he is a part of the club.

Meanwhile, many people on social media have descended into ugly and abusive name calling, with the player being branded ‘scum’, an ‘attention seeker’ and even compared to a terrorist by many English fans.

There have been plenty of trolls who have sent extreme messages about McClean that are too explicit to display on this site. Here are a few of the anti-McCLean tweets that we can reproduce on this family website

Many others said that if he hates the English so much then he should leave the country.

However, a number of English people, not all of them West Brom fans, have tweeted their support for McClean’s stance.

Tottenham fan Flav Bateman tweeted

Nottingham Forest fan Hannah Dexter said:

Middlesbrough fan Ryan H S said:

Many English fans mocked the strong reaction of some of the people who directed angry messages at McClean.

Peter Charles said:

Meanwhile, sports banter twitter page Benchwarmers suggested a new song for West Brom fans to sing to McClean

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Here is a video of the match. Skip forward to 3.28 to see the McClean incident.

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2 thoughts on “Irish soccer star splits opinion in England after turning his back on English flag

  1. Peter Garland

    “forgive and forget” That you are still occupying Northern Ireland? Do you want us to walk into a wall too?

    Bravo for the Derryman.

    Peadar Garland
    Proud to be Irish

    23/07/2015 at 2:50 am
  2. madeline christiansen

    Well done Mr McClean!

    22/07/2015 at 10:34 pm

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