Adam Idah did not see the online racial abuse directed at Ireland under-15 players last week, but he is only too aware of how exposed footballers are to such comments on social media.
In recent months the 22-year-old has stepped away from using social media, partly because he has been subjected to racism on various online platforms.
Following Norwich’s 3-0 Premier League defeat to Crystal Palace in December 2021, Idah was the target of racism on Instagram – he took a screenshot of the vitriol at the time and reposted it to show the kind of abuse players experience.
Then, during his recent period sidelined with knee problems, and with plenty of free time on his hands, he found himself scrolling through social media more than he would previously have done. His experiences during that time were enough to make him turn away.
“Especially when I was injured, it’s probably the thing (social media) I was on the most and seeing all these things is not nice, so I had to come off it, I don’t see anything now,” says Idah.
“I don’t get too high or too down, I have that balance and I can recommend that to most people, stay away from it, it’s one of the best things I have done.
“I have been off Twitter for two or three months, I just one day decided not to be on it, to not see all the comments. If I do have a good game you get stuck trying to see what everyone is saying about you, but you might see that one comment that’s bad and that will put you down for the rest of the day.
“So, the best thing for me was to come off it, pretty much all of my family have come off it as well, just to not see these comments.”
The FAI came out strongly last week to condemn “vile and horrific abuse” directed at Ireland under-15 players.
They stated: “We abhor such ignorant and unacceptable online abuse of any player and we are working with the gardaí, the social media companies, the families of the players and their clubs to ensure that this matter is dealt with in the appropriate manner.”
[ ‘It’s unacceptable’ - Jim Crawford angered by racist abuse of Under-15 players ]
Idah reckons the current diversity within the Ireland senior dressingroom can be a vehicle for good and hopes the young players targeted last week do not allow such comments to deter them from following their sporting dreams.
“It’s not a nice thing to see or hear, it’s an awful thing, I have experienced it myself, it’s not nice for those lads, under-15s is such a young age, it’s outrageous,” he adds.
“You can see in the first team there is so much diversity at the moment, anyone and everybody has a chance to play for this country no matter where you are from or who you are, you always have that chance.
“All I can say to those young lads is to keep their heads up, don’t listen to what anyone says, focus on themselves and one day they could be in this team as well.
“Those lads know themselves they are Irish, no matter what colour skin you are, what religion you are.
“We are all here to welcome whoever, if you want to play for this badge, then you are more than welcome, if you want to put in as much work as everyone else and fight for a place in the team, I stand by them.
“A lot of young people do look up to us as role models, I have already had a few people say it to me already that there is diversity in the squad that we probably haven’t seen as much of before, it’s great to see. No matter who you are, you always have a right to play for this country.”
Idah believes social media companies should be more accountable, and he would like to see more stringent regulations introduced.
“There should be an identity check when you do set up these social media (accounts),” he says.
“That’s the main thing, every company should know who is on their app, these things shouldn’t be said.
“We need to educate people a bit better. Hopefully one day we can crack down on it.”
[ Ken Early: Frustration the overriding feeling as Kenny’s men shoot themselves in the foot again ]
If he has closed his social media, Idah reopened his international career on Monday night when making his first Ireland appearance since the 3-0 win over Luxembourg in November 2021.
And he hopes Ireland can now build on their performance over the remainder of the qualification campaign.
“Just a small error at the start of the second half and they capitalised on that and scored an unbelievable goal,” he says.
“I think we put in a top performance against one of the best teams in the world, so I think we need to take the positives from the game.”