A Belfast restaurant owner who said he was racially abused by a group of Northern Ireland football fans has been invited to be a VIP guest at Windsor Park.
Ali Askir, who has lived in Belfast since 1989, said he was driving in the Village area of South Belfast around 4pm on Saturday when he was branded a ‘Paki Irish b*****d’ by fans who had attended the match agianst Bosnia.
Police have said they are investigating the incident and it is being treated as a “racially motivated hate crime”.
Mr Askir, who owns restaurant SAFA and founded the Irish Curry Awards, told Belfast Live he was driving to an MOT when a group of people became abusive.
He added: “It says Irish Curry Awards on my car.. one or two started shouting. As I went along into the side street there was no police about, and some of them started to slap my car.
“Some of them were kicking the car. I kept my door shut and I kept on driving but I couldn’t move that move because the traffic was bad.
“Luckily I moved to where there was lighter traffic and I was able to get through.”
Mr Askir received support from NI fans on social media, including loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, who described the incident as “totally wrong and not reflective of NI fans”.
One disgusted fan tweeted: “Ali, really sorry to hear of this incident. As a NI fan, I echo others’ comments on this to (a) condemn it and (b) assure you that this does not reflect the attitudes of the vast majority of NI fans. No place for racism in our society, be it inside or outside a football stadium.”
Another supporter spoke of her anger at the incident, stating: “Really sorry to hear that. Please don’t think they represent the huge majority of us. Mortified and so cross about this.”
The IFA also condemned the incident and said “no one should ever suffer racial abuse”, adding: “We will be in touch directly to invite you to be our VIP guest at our game against Austria. Every one of our real fans will give you a warm welcome.”
Mr Bryson welcomed the move by the IFA, adding: “Glad the @OfficialIrishFA has taken up the suggestion of providing @dukeofspice with a complimentary VIP package to a future match.
“What happened to Ali was wrong and I am sure he will get a very warm welcome at the Austria game. Those who abused him should be ashamed.”