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Chiedozie Ogbene says footballers are getting concerned over pitch invasion trend

Chiedozie Ogbene and Rianna Jarrett with Marwa Babiker, Jason Burnett, Will Hawkins, and Eoin Hawkins during the launch of the INTERSPORT Elverys FAI Summer Soccer Schools at the FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

HIS own experience with pitch invasions have been of the good-natured variety, but Ireland international Chiedozie Ogbene admits that "stricter measures" are now needed in the game cross-channel after a spate of incidents.

Manchester City have apologised for the treatment suffered by Aston Villa's goalkeeper during a pitch invasion at the end of Sunday's Premier League game, and Patrick Vieira was also in the spotlight after his engagement with a supporter who was part of a pitch invasion away to Everton. There were also violent incidents where players from Sheffield United and Swindon Town were attacked in the last month.

And Ogbene admits that it's a hot topic for footballers who fear for their safety. “Yeah players are talking about it because people forget players are human beings as well. I know if someone is making fun of me, making faces and all sorts of signs in front of me, it will make me frustrated," Ogbene said, speaking at the launch in Dublin of the FAI/Intersport Elverys Summer Soccer Schools.

“We’re all quite disciplined, we’re trained not to react but, at the end of the day, we’re human beings and I saw what Vieira did, I’m not saying I would have done it, I would have taken a different approach but other players could have done something worse."

He recalled supporters getting onto the pitch at the end of his club season with Rotherham United. "Obviously when we finished the season we had our fans on the pitch. We were lucky that no player was injured. Obviously now it’s a growing concern. Players need to be protected. I think the issue is when fans are against fans. I think that’s the biggest issue," he says.

"Lately players have been attacked, which isn’t a good sight to see. I think they need to do more to protect the players. I’m not fearful because I haven’t been in that position. I was quite fortunate that fans just hugged us and let us go in.

"I don’t really have the answer for that. But I’m hoping, based on what I’ve seen, that there are going to be stricter measures to protect the players on the pitch. I know if that was me, my family would be very upset if I was being assaulted on the pitch.

"I think the pitch is supposed to be a safe place for players but lately it hasn’t been with all of the fans coming on and I think there needs to be stricter measures for that."

Chiedozie Ogbene was speaking at the launch in Dublin of the FAI Summer Soccer Schools in partnership with INTERSPORT Elverys

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