"It was intimidating" - Ireland fan shares his side of the flag controversy story in Belgrade

Tommy Shields speaks to Off The Ball

Ireland, Belgrade

Ireland team line up ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

On Monday, Off The Ball football contributor Daniel McDonnell had a piece in the Irish Independent, detailing the changing relationship between the FAI and Ireland fans over the years.

One of the central points of the piece relates to Ireland's recent trip to play Serbia in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers:

"A substantial posse passed through Frankfurt, where a discussion point was the searches that a couple of supporters had undergone when they entered the Red Star Stadium.

"Zeno Kelly and Tommy Shields went public to outline their dissatisfaction at being stopped entering the match by Serbian security, who were accompanied by an FAI official. Their bags were examined.

"They feel that the delay entering the ground was born from a determination to establish whether they had a banner that was critical of Delaney in their possession."

On tonight's Off The Ball, Dan and Joe Molloy were joined by Irish fan Tommy Shields to discuss his experience.

"The flag belonged to Zeno Kelly," Shields explained.

Full interview can be found here:

"It was a very, very good banner and it used John Delaney's words [about the League of Ireland] and it showed the photographs that the FAI have actually done of seven or eight players who started off in the League of Ireland. And all it said was 'My problem child.'" 

Shields then explained what happened in Belgrade.

"We arrived up at the stadium gate and as usual there was the local security there and at first I didn't even notice the FAI man. But when the armed security guards had patted us down just to make sure we were carrying nothing, I was asked to open my bag and the FAI official took out my flag. And on my flag [it says] 'My team's my passion' with a Galway United crest and a big tricolour. It's been all over the world with me."

The flag was not taken off him and he added that he has never had a protest flag at any game.

"I don't think the FAI had any jurisdiction to do what they did," he said.

"And what was worse then, what they did to Zeno, that they stopped him going into the game entirely and kept him outside for 15 minutes. And only for the protests of a large number of supporters - including those who'd be from supporters clubs, he was let in 15 minutes after the game started." 

Shields went on to described the situation as "intimidating".