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New additions make squad representative of a diverse Ireland

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It’s a small world. Isreal Ibeanu is a soccer referee in Dublin who also trains Irish sprinters of African descent. Last weekend his Titans athletics club had Koadchima Ogbene competing in the 100 metres in Belfast.

“With literally no training he ran 11.35,” says Ibeanu, who recently spoke to BBC Newsnight about the violent deaths of his friends and former Isaka Glentoran FC teammates George Nkencho and Toyosi Shittabey.

“It was nowhere near his personal best, which is 10.80 and that’s because he isn’t getting any support to allow him to train. But it was a good day out.

“You might have heard about his little brother . . . ”

Chiedozie Ogbene just broke into the Republic of Ireland senior squad. To call him a late bloomer at 24 would be hotly contested by Mick O’Dwyer’s son.

“Ah the legend of Chiedozie,” says Robbie O’Dwyer, a long serving mentor with Nemo Rangers. “If he stuck to the GAA he would have played for Cork. He had everything – pace, skill, fielding ability. He could even run and read the play.”

Wait now, are we talking about Ogbene or Brian Fenton?

“If only you saw him. We had an Under-21 final in 2015, we were playing Valley Rovers up in Pairc Ui Rinn. He was 18 at the time. From midfield he got 1-2 from play.

Shane Duffy and Chiedozie Ogbene during a training session in Andorra. Photograph: Bagu Blanco/Inpho
Shane Duffy and Chiedozie Ogbene during a training session in Andorra. Photograph: Bagu Blanco/Inpho

“We drew the match and for the replay people came from all over the county, as they had heard about this fella, Chi-Doz-Ee.”

The masses went home disappointed.

“He was tied to Cork City and we had asked for him to be released for the final. We couldn’t have him for the replay, which was a huge loss to us at the time.” Nemo were beaten.

Ogbene was born in Lagos but the Rotherham United right winger accentuates his Corkness as much as anyone raised in the Rebel County, although it took longer to establish this as legal fact due to Fifa’s administrative labyrinth.

History books

Gavin Bazunu is from Firhouse in Dublin, born to a Nigerian father and an Irish mother. The Manchester City goalkeeper, currently on loan to Rochdale, became Shamrock Rovers’ youngest ever player in June 2018 at 16 years and 109 days.

“There was one moment when we walked out of the ground thinking, ‘right, ok,’” remembers Shane Robinson, Rovers academy director. “It was an Under-19s shield final. Gav was only 15 and we had a couple of injuries and we threw him in.

“He is a mannerly kid but I saw him having rows with the Under-19 defenders about protecting his goal. His info was right and he wouldn’t back down.”

Bazunu’s debut for the Republic of Ireland last March, in the 1-0 loss to Luxembourg at Lansdowne Road, will forever illuminate the history books.

“When the first shot went in we were nervous for him,” says Robinson. “The academy had never had someone who played for the first team and gone on to be capped at international level. I think the commentator said it was a nice easy one but it hopped right in front of him, and he killed it.

“How he dealt with the occasion was the same as how he dealt with his debut for our Under-15s, Under-17s, Under-19s. That calming presence, no matter what team he plays with, means defenders trust him. That’s hard to teach.”

Shamrock Rovers permanent move to Tallaght in 2009 offered the club a sprawling, multi-cultural catchment area to recruit from.

“Across our 250 players there are lots of mixed race boys but they are from Tallaght, they are Irish,” Robinson insists. “We transfer players over from Corduff, which is a similar area with similar background of kids, so they can train. I know they won’t be here if we do not do that because the families do not have the means.

“That’s the other side of the story you are writing about – the game can’t be just about taking registration fees and making money,” Robinson continues. “In the last 30, 40 years that’s effectively what it was all about. Even developing a player to sell him to make a few quid or take the reg fees off a thousand kids.

“That money didn’t really get invested anywhere. It’s another article, but the funding element is something we have to look at, properly.”

Rovers paid €6,500 for Bazunu to complete his leaving certificate at Ashfield College parallel to his professional career taking flight at Man City.

Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu is a calm presence between the posts. Photograph: Bagu Blanco/Inpho
Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu is a calm presence between the posts. Photograph: Bagu Blanco/Inpho

“Gavin and others did go away but Brexit means that is not going to be happening as much. It is important we treat it serious here and give kids the best opportunity.”

Another brewing issue is the quicker physical development of players with African parents.

“We need to put our heads together because it is not going to stop,” Robinson adds. “I see the talent coming through at Under-14, Under-15 and we have to make sure that others are not lost.

“There are more Andrew’s and more Gavin’s coming through. That’s the really good side of it but we just need to stop all the shite that goes with it around the country.”

Ibeanu offers a wider perspective: “It does not feel like the community is coming together because, I feel, they feel like it is a black problem. It is not for the community to deal with as it is not affecting the white Irish population.

“It effects them when their kid comes home crying because they didn’t get to play today because the manager dropped them for a black player.

“So then the parents come in saying ‘why is my kid not playing?’ and they put pressure on the manager to play them.”

Bias

He suggests that every coach in every club undergoes mandatory training in unconscious bias.

“And the course cannot be given by a white guy, it is given by a black person.”

Andrew Omobamidele, born to a Nigerian father and Irish mother, is from Leixlip in north county Kildare. The Norwich City centre back turns 19 this month, just in time to play Premier League football next season.

“Andrew has this Rolls Royce look about him,” says Kenny Molloy, his coach at Leixlip United. “I remember playing in our first ever All Ireland semi final against the best team in the country, which was St Joseph’s Boys. We were up against it, got beaten one-nil, but we would have lost by more only Andrew was absolutely superb.

“After the game I was asked to step outside the dressing room and the Manchester United scout, Larry Dunne, who passed away recently, God rest him, pulled me over to ask about Andrew.”

It was the easiest conversation Molloy ever had. “You are biased towards your own lads but it was massive to hear Larry say, ‘there is a small bit of Paul McGrath in him’ physically, but also the way he plays.

“I see Andrew going all the way to the top and I’ve probably been afraid to say that out loud. If he gets that bit of luck. He hasn’t had a lot of it. He has sat in my sitting room hearing about other clubs not taking him to England.

“But I do think he is different to what we have had before. He’s a modern centre half who can play through the thirds. Van Dijk has made it all sexy now, hasn’t he?”

Molloy cannot deny the racism he has witnessed in the Dublin District schoolboys league.

“We were a very close team with half the lads of African descent. That became normal for us at the club. It does become a concern as they get older because they become aware of what is being said on the sideline.”

Adam Idah was born and raised in Cork to a Nigerian father and Irish mother. He played for College Corinthians until entering the Norwich City academy in 2017 at age 16.

“He started with us at under six,” remembered ‘Mr Corinthians’ Terry O’Donovan. “A tall, gangly young fella. A really nice, easy going lad, but with electric pace.

“When he filled out he became too strong for a lot of kids his age. Ball over the top, bang.

“One other great asset is that he can strike a ball with either foot. He didn’t have to learn the finer points of the game until he went up the levels and got better coaching in the Ireland under 15 and 16 squads. That brought him on an awful lot.”

Again, O’Donovan has witnessed the first generation of Irish-African children growing up on the city’s pitches.

“Over the years we would play Dublin teams in the national cup. Cherry Orchard would always come down with a big, powerful centre forward.

“The lad with West Ham now, Mipo [ODUBEKO], played in two national cup finals against us for Joeys. It was under 14s but he was built like an adult out on the left wing. They do mature a lot earlier than Irish boys. Put everyone’s attributes together and you will come up with a good team.

“They are generally great young fellas but there may be social factors that prevent all these lads from going on to play with League of Ireland clubs.”

Social factors?

“There are no career opportunities for them. There would be a drop off at 16 of lads playing but the black lads drop off in far greater numbers. That is a terrible pity.”

The Irish men of Nigerian descent in Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland squad would rise to six if Dublin born Premier League strikers Mipo Odubeko and Michael Obafemi were available.

These numbers are only going to rise.

Racism

Toyosi Shittabey was stabbed to death in 2010. George Nkencho was shot by an armed Garda outside his front door in December 2020.

BBC Newsnight also spoke to Ken McCue, the guiding hand behind Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari), about losing two players from the same Insaka Glentoran FC underage team in such harrowing circumstances.

Describing Garda Sergeant Vincent Connolly as one of Insaka’s “three musketeers without weapons,” when Connolly was moved out of Blanchardstown station and stopped travelling to matches in uniform the relations, McCue states, between the police and “the young lads on the street” in the Dublin 15 area suffered “a huge slump.”

Racial profiling of black males is something An Garda Síochána flatly deny, but Omobamidele recently said: “You cannot hide from racial profiling because it is true and it is there in plain sight.”

Last month RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live took up the baton with an entire show dedicated to being young, black and Irish.

Republic of Ireland players Cyrus Christie, Darren Randolph and Idah contributed with Christie’s horrendous experience on social media after defeat to the Denmark in 2018, when someone created an online petition to have him lynched, still leaves a bitter taste in the 28-year old’s mouth.

“The Garda didn’t really do too much about it,” said Christie. “I think it was more to look like they were doing something rather than to make a change and help and put the situation first, even though all the evidence was in front of them.”

Claire Byrne turned to Bashir Otukoya, an assistant professor in DCU’s school of law and government, to ask if Ireland has a serious problem with racism and policing.

“It is a major issue,” Otukoya replied. “It needs to be addressed almost immediately if we are to have that security and that support.

“There is always this denial of the real pandemic in our society, that is racism, and we need to address it and we need to start from our very foundation of support in this country and that is An Garda Síochána. Because we need to have trust in them.”

Next, Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman – who spent 34 years in the PSNI – spoke about an “enhanced training package” that will be rolled out by 2022.

Emer O’Neill, the teacher and broadcaster sitting in studio, wondered aloud: “If the organisation itself is possibly racist all the training in the world will make no difference.”

Dialogue has never been so important, Otukoya informed The Irish Times.

“We have to filter what we say so that we don’t inconvenience others. In academic language this is called ‘white fragility.’ But everybody needs to get comfortable talking about race.

“The Ireland squad is representative of a diverse Ireland and it is great to see and it is great for the country but underneath this is the fact that although we are seeing a sense of belonging, we are still restricted from being ourselves.”

Professor Otukoya is aware of a “huge recruitment drive for ethnic minority people” by the guards from his role on the government’s anti-racism committee but it is his answer to a straight question about whether An Garda Síochána is institutionally racist that cannot be ignored.

“It is ok to say that the Gardaí are institutionally racist. That is what I do not understand. It is almost as if we are not allowed to say that, as if it is an offence.

“We first have to call it out so we can address the problem. I am not saying it is deliberate. I know Gardaí, I have worked with Gardaí, I am teaching Gardaí so I know they are operating under a process that they have been taught.

“That process is devoid of considerations for diversity because of the way our institutions have risen from 100 years ago, when the state was created, and before that we were under the British system, and you can still see a resemblance of that in our laws, so unless we address institutional racism, which is in most of our public institutions, if not all of them . . .

“Why are we so insistent not to say we have problems with institutional racism when countries such as the UK, the US, the Netherlands – huge countries who have dealt with immigration for years – can admit to institutional racism and are doing something about it?

“Why are we, when we are so new to diversity, saying ‘No, we can’t say that.’ It is perplexing. That is not to say we are being deliberately racist but they do not understand that what they are doing is being racist. That is the point.”

If the Christie situation reoccurred this week, have there been any changes in policing to ensure the perpetrator would be punished?

“There hasn’t been any significant change,” Otukoya concludes. “Not enough to say we are happy, that this is our home where we feel safe and protected.

“There is so much work to be done.”

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Godwin submits plans for Dorset mixed-use development (GB)

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Godwin Developments has submitted a planning application for Woodbury Park, a brand-new commercial development located at a prominent 4.85-acre site in Bere Regis, Dorset. Proposals include four purpose-built drive thru and drive to roadside retail units, with renowned restaurant brands PopeyesStarbucks and McDonald’s already lined up to take space, which has been designed to their specifications.

 

The scheme will also feature a 12,000ft² block of up to eight units, with associated parking and turning facilities. The units will be two storeys high, with the flexibility to combine into larger floorplates, if required by potential tenants. The block will be built speculatively and will target BREEAM Very Good, including features such as air source heat pumps, low energy lighting and highly efficient building fabric, to name a few.

 

Situated off the Townsend Roundabout at the northern entry point of Bere Regis, the site benefits from a high passing traffic flow of over 27,000 daily vehicles. It occupies a key location at the intersection of the A31 and A35 alongside the main arterial route connecting Poole and Bournemouth to Dorchester.

 

The Woodbury Park scheme will further Godwin’s commitment to local regeneration and job creation by enabling up to 250 new employment opportunities. Roles are anticipated to be primarily in retail, distribution and logistics, as well as services, manufacturing, technology and the creative industries. Local people will also benefit from the inclusion of several EV charging points, the first in the area.

 

Claudine Tracey, Development Manager at Godwin Developments, said: “The site’s high traffic flow, lack of similar offering close by, and proximity to existing Shell garage and trade park make Woodbury Park a sought-after location for a range of occupiers – including coffee and quick service restaurant brands. We are also delighted to be delivering the UK’s first Popeyes drive thru as the company expands its footprint in this country. In addition, our development will deliver a variety of local employment opportunities for Bere Regis through the provision of flexible industrial and logistics space suitable for new and existing businesses. The scheme at Bere Regis showcases Godwin’s unique capability to successfully combine industrial and roadside retail to maximise a site’s potential through complementary uses.”

 

Stuart Pratt, Director at Godwin Developments, commented: “The recent boom in takeaway food consumption and hyper-local convenience shopping is bringing ever more exciting brands to the roadside retail sector. At the same time, demand for industrial and logistics space is continuing to grow with units of varied sizes – including trade parks – experiencing a substantial lack of supply. For these reasons interest from investors into both sectors has been very strong in the past year; and we expect the trend to continue throughout 2022 on the back of strong consumer fundamentals.”

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Barings and HBD secure planning for London logistics scheme (GB)

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Barings and HBD have secured detailed planning for a strategic logistics scheme in Rainham, London, transforming a 20-acre brownfield site. The new development, Momentum London, is being delivered by Barings and HBD in a joint venture partnership. It will create 381,814ft² of new logistics and industrial space across four units ranging from 41,000 -171,000ft².

 

The scheme will target Net Zero Carbon, BREEAM “Excellent” and an EPC “A+” rating. This is being achieved by dynamic design, careful consideration of materials, zero use of fossil fuels, maximizing photovoltaic solar panels, battery storage and intelligent building systems. The units will be 100% EV ready, including passive fleet charging to the yards.

 

The logistics park will be set in landscaped environment with picnic and public areas, as well as direct access onto the Thames Cycle Path, so that it brings further social benefits to the area. Positioned on the River Thames, with potential for jetty access, Momentum will offer an easy stepping stone into Central London and out via the A13, just minutes away.

 

Darren Hutchinson, Head of UK Real Estate Transactions and Managing Director at Barings, said: Momentum London will be a strategically located logistics scheme with strong environmental and social credentials, beneficial both to future occupiers and the communities around it. Logistics is one of Barings’ preferred investment sectors and Momentum London exemplifies the kind of developments we’re seeking, with a keen interest in exploring joint ventures like this one with HBD.”

 

Simon Quine, Senior Development Surveyor at HBD, said: “Industrial and logistics space remains in very limited supply across London, particularly larger distribution units. Momentum will plug that gap within the M25 and provide modern, sustainable logistics and distribution space to serve London and the wider South East market. Landscaping and wellness have been thoroughly considered, with careful design considerations and enhancements to the Thames Foot and Cycle path, which we hope will help occupiers to attract and retain staff.”

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Mirrored furniture trend can create the illusion of space in your home

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Mirrored furniture provokes strong emotions. Some see it as the epitome of bad taste, flashy and bling. Others know that mirrors have magic powers.

A mirrored table or cabinet makes a room or a hallway appear more swish and spacious. It’s a trick that bars and restaurants employ to ensure their establishments appear roomier and more inviting — and they can add lustre to your home, too.

Choosing a piece of mirrored furniture also sends out a sign that you are aware of one of the year’s trends — the return of Art Deco, the influential style that emerged in the 1920s. 

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

It blended forms that celebrated modern machinery with decorative elements drawn from Greco-Roman culture and nature. 

The mirror was a favourite material, used on the surfaces of furniture and walls to supply a shimmering silver and gold effect.

Probably the most famous piece of Art Deco architecture is New York’s Chrysler Building. Completed in 1930, its sunburst-patterned stainless steel spire remains one of the key elements of the Manhattan skyline.

Art Deco console tables, drinks trolleys and other items from the era of the building’s construction sell for thousands on auction sites such as 1stdibs underlining the growing appeal of this aesthetic. 

Jamie Watkins, the co-founder of fabric and wallpaper company Divine Savages, explains Art Deco’s allure for a new audience.

‘Art Deco, with its bold geometrical patterns was such an iconic period for design: it’s synonymous with glamour and luxury.’

The resurgent popularity of Art Deco is also based on its practicality: a mirrored piece works with almost any interior, adding interest and depth.

The power of the mirror to create a wow impression has been recognised for centuries. 

Examples of this technique include the round mirror on the wall behind the bride and groom in Jan van Eyck’s 1434 Arnolfini Portrait in the National Gallery. It sends out the message that the couple are discerning — and wealthy.

Cheers: B&M's £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

Cheers: B&M’s £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

The hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles was designed to be a place of beauty, but also to display the financial resources of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Mirrors were a luxury item until an inexpensive manufacturing process was invented in the 1830s.

In 2022, it is possible to pick up mirrored pieces for under £100. B&M has a £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves that would lend an air of Thirties elegance to any gathering. The £94.99 Ellison serving cart (a U.S. term for drinks trolley) from Wayfair has a similar vibe.

If you believe that the right mirrored trolley would save you money on trips to bars, the larger £144.95 gold oval mirrored trolley from Melody Maison could be the thing.

A mirrored cocktail cabinet will dazzle guests. The £1,200 Primrose & Plum champagne and gold cabinet has a Jazz-Age feel.

The £299 Venetian sideboard from Furniture Market, meanwhile, is a more modestly priced way to conjure up the party spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

The show flats of apartment blocks are often equipped with mirrored cocktail cabinets containing bottles of spirits and crystal glasses. This makes buyers dream of dinner parties, with a prelude of aperitifs, but also serves to make the apartment appear even roomier.

A console table in the hall also creates an illusion of space which can be amplified by the addition of a lamp. HomesDirect365 has a range in the style of almost every era including Art Deco, Regency, the 1960s and the 1970s. Prices start at £233.

The bedroom is often the most cramped room in either a house or flat which is why this can be the best place to experiment with mirrored furniture. 

The desire to preserve family harmony is another reason. The other members of your household may prefer the kitchen and living room to be slick and understated, seeing anything mirrored as excessive.

In the bedroom, however, you can indulge your decor fantasies. Habitat has the one-drawer Hepburn bedside table for £76.

Next offers the antique effect Fleur bedside table which costs £225 for the one-drawer version and £275 for the two-drawer version. 

The Fleur is also available as a six-drawer chest for £599 or a £1,150 double wardrobe if you seek to waft around your bedroom channelling your inner 1930s Hollywood screen siren. 

Dunelm’s Venetian mirrored dressing table also offers a chance to live out your dream of silver screen stardom (£449).

If mirrored furniture has brought out your party animal, kindling a passion for Art Deco in every guise, Divine Savages offers Deco Martini wallpaper whose design is based on the geometric forms, with a hidden Martini glass within the print (£150 per roll).

Some of your guests may not be too busy checking out their reflections on the doors of the mirrored cabinet to notice this subtle and witty detail in the wallpaper.

Savings of the week! water jugs… Up to 52% off 

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon is already delightful. But it is even more enjoyable if you are sipping on a cool drink or an iced coffee from a generously sized jug, or maybe even a Pimm’s. The arrival of the July sales means bargains abound.

If you prioritise practicality, Ocado’s textured lustre plastic picnic jug has 33 per cent off at £8.

The price of the pleasingly geometric plastic smoky-grey Prism jug from Wayfair is 16 per cent off at £10.10. 

If you would like to feel as if you are in the south of France, John Lewis has the plain glass Arles wicker-wrapped jug. It is reduced from £25 to £12, down 52 per cent.

Wanting something more elegant that you can also use for flowers? The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is also half-price at £22.

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