AN EAST Lothian football club have shown racism the red card by pulling out of a tournament after one of their players was allegedly racially abused on the pitch.

Wallyford Bluebell FC have been “overwhelmed” at the level of support from all over Scotland for their stance following a match against Clermiston Vale on Sunday.

An investigation is ongoing after the alleged incidents were reported to Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur Football Association (LEAFA).

The player involved, centre-back Kamran Tufail, 25, known as Pinkie, who has lived in Musselburgh all his life, has welcomed the messages of goodwill and the solidarity shown by team-mates after the alleged incident.

The former pupil of Loretto RC Primary School in Musselburgh and St David’s High School in Dalkeith said on Twitter: “Never expected anything less from this group of boys but their support still means a lot to me. Playing Sunday football with my pals to enjoy it, not for this.”

He told the Courier that he did not feel angry about the alleged incident but disappointed, claiming that this was the third time in 18 months he had been subjected to racial abuse.

Mr Tufail started playing football when he was a pupil at primary school, encouraged by his older brothers who enjoyed the sport.

He went on to play for Musselburgh Windsor FC until he was about 16 before enjoying spells at Haddington Athletic and Livingston.

Clubs from all over the country, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, have backed the Wallyford side in the action they have taken.

Locally, the players have also received support from Musselburgh Athletic, Musselburgh Windsor and Musselburgh Amateurs. Wallyford Bluebell were playing Clermiston Vale in the last 16 of the FN TeamWear Cup at Fisherrow.

A summer tournament, it was organised to get teams playing games after the Covid-19 lockdown.

This was the Wallyford team’s sixth game in the tournament, in which they maintained their 100 per cent record with an 8-1 victory.

Rod Learmonth, coach and club secretary, was unable to attend the game but said: “I was made aware of what happened by my players not long after the match ended.

“On the Sunday evening, I contacted Clermiston Vale’s representatives. Thankfully, they condemned it but also stated they were unaware of the incidents but would investigate.

“This is now the third time this has happened to the same player. He has already indicated to me that he’s had enough and is considering giving up playing.

“I have coached this lad since he was seven years old and I couldn’t be more angry and upset that he has again been subjected to abuse.”

Mr Learmonth alleged that during the first half of the game, one of the Wallyford Bluebell players took three touches to get a pass under control.

It is claimed that Pinkie laughed and jokingly shouted to his team-mate: “Do you not want an extra touch there Muzz?”

It is alleged a Clermiston Vale player thought Pinkie had made a comment to someone on his team and shouted a racist comment.

Mr Learmonth claimed: “I have three of my players who all clearly heard this player say this to Pinkie and have gone on record as witnesses.

“From what I gather, the boys challenged his comments and were all considering walking off but Pinkie was adamant that the boys didn’t do it.

“I had heard from another of my players that after it calmed down, another Clermiston player also made a racist comment towards Pinkie; however, this was only overheard by one of my players.”

Mr Learmonth said it was “totally unacceptable”, adding: “It’s disgraceful in this day and age that comments like this are expressed.”

He explained that the competition was not an LEAFA one and run by Football Nation and Saughton Sounders but under the rules of LEAFA.

He has spoken to the LEAFA league secretary and the alleged incidents have been reported.

He said: “With these incidents, it’s always difficult to get the strong ban they warrant as often it comes down to one person’s word against others.

“However, as well as being furious with the conduct of their players, I also have a duty to report this incident on behalf of Pinkie. He’s genuinely distraught at what happened and he’s well liked within our squad, so all the boys are feeling it.

“Clermiston Vale have since contacted me to confirm that due to having players self-isolating, they called upon additional players to allow them to get the game played. It does appear that the players involved were trialists and are not linked to the club.

“I’m fully aware that due to Covid there’s been a massive restriction placed on the LEAFA regarding dealing with disciplinary matters. However, I’ve since been informed that approval has now been given to conduct meetings via Zoom so we are hopefully this would be addressed as a priority.

“I had been thinking a lot afterwards at what the best course of action would be to support Pinkie. So before speaking to the rest of the squad, I discussed with him about us withdrawing from the tournament as a showing of solidarity to him.

“Just continuing along like nothing had happened felt like the wrong decision, so we took the stance that we did to try and highlight the issue. The squad were all fully behind our idea, so on Monday we decided to formally withdraw and we put a statement on Twitter.

“Since then, the level of support that the club and Pinkie have received has been overwhelming and it has restored a bit of our faith in the football community.

“Corstorphine Dynamo were the first club to send a tweet condemning racism, saying ‘they stand with Bluebell FC’ and then it took off. We’ve had messages of solidarity from all corners of Scotland.

“We will continue to highlight this issue going forward and hope that our stance will highlight this abhorrent disease that still sadly exists in all levels of football.”

Mr Tufail said: “I feel racial abuse in football doesn’t get treated in a similar way to any other offence.

“A physical assault or a spitting incidence can see players banned for years at a time, the only evidence being witnesses at the game. So why when racial abuse happens do we then say ‘it’s your word against his so we can’t do too much’, even when there are numerous witnesses willing to testify?

“It happens right at the top in football – we’ve seen it with Glen Kamara at Rangers this year, getting racially abused, reacting angrily and no real punishment given to the abuser. So why would we expect it to stop?

“We need the governing bodies to say, if there is ‘x’ amount of witnesses that hear the abuse, the punishment is a set amount of time. It needs to be a lengthy punishment to stop it happening in the future.

“I know it is only a minority but it is the minority that are ruining the game for everyone. It is a cancer that goes beyond football.

“When I got abused at the weekend, it was so clear they were looking for an angry reaction. They didn’t get it from me. I was past it. I didn’t want to be there and I didn’t want to play. It wasn’t worth it.”

He added: “The governing body have put out a statement saying they are against racism, which I am glad to hear, but we need more action to back this up.

“I don’t want to ‘let them win’, I want to keep playing. But if I keep playing and keep getting racially abused, is that supposed to be me winning?”

Alasdair Wilson, secretary at Clermiston Vale, said: “The matter has been referred to LEAFA so it would be inappropriate for me or other club officials to comment.”

John Hood, manager at Musselburgh Windsor, said: “The majority of the Bluebell coaches and players are ex-Musselburgh Windsor and we fully support our friends at Wallyford Bluebell in the stance they have taken against racism. We’re delighted to see the huge support they have gained on social media from other grassroots football organisations.”

Chris Lowrie, LEAFA association secretary and SAFA South West District executive committee secretary/match secretary, in a post ‘Racism in Football’ on the LEAFA Facebook page, said: “I wish to express both my disappointment and shame at what I’ve read on social media today and discussed directly with one of our members.

“I urge you in your roles as club secretaries and leaders of your respective clubs to ensure your members are aware of their responsibilities to the other members and to society as a whole.”