By M Devine
Former Irish and North American State boxing champion, “Gael-Force” Oisin Fagan, has set himself yet another mammoth challenge. The 38 year-old, who was the oldest man ever, to win a first professional Irish title, at the ripe old-age of 32, when lesser men have finished up their careers, intends to add another major accomplishment to his CV. This time though, he will work for a very worthy cause, by volunteering for the ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ (SRRC) group; while, attempting to use his skills with a skipping rope, to jump an incredible 10,000 times, all within the space of an hour.
‘Show Racism the Red Card’ are an organisation, founded to bring awareness to racism; while encouraging inter-cultural activities and integration; which, is a cause, close to Fagan’s heart.
The former schoolteacher lived in the USA for 10-years and in that time, through his skills as a centre-midfielder, on a soccer scholarship, he graduated, with honours and degrees in physical education and political journalism. Since his return to Dublin, he acquired a job as a community officer in boxing development, with the Dublin City Council (DCC), where integration, it seems, is to be at the forefront of this highly-specialised position.
Fagan said, “Racism, is a issue that greatly upsets me and it’s a scourge that I want to help totally eradicate. I had a 10-year stint in the USA, where I ended up teaching English and PE to minority; predominantly, Latino children at an inner-city public school, in OKC, called Columbus Elementary; while, moonlighting as a professional boxer; therefore, I’ve had countless experiences, both, competing against, and working with minorities; after all, I was one myself, in the USA, which is simply, the biggest melting-pot of colour and cultures in the world. During my time abroad, I met many wonderful people from all backgrounds and even though I am an extremely proud Irishman and wear my heart on my sleeve in that regard, I am delighted and blessed that I have so many of my best friends as foreign-nationals and the Travelling Community too. My black friends in the USA, Jamaica and Africa are behind me 100% with this challenge. So too, are my former students and their parents at Columbus Elementary, who were from Mexican backgrounds, mainly.
He continued, “Employment as a community officer, using boxing as the tool, is the greatest job in the world and I commend the Dublin City Council and IABA for their appointments with these positions. I love the fact that it gives me the chance to work with and to help integrate youngsters of all ethnicities; while keeping them out of trouble and keeping them focused on all the positives that boxing presents ‘at-risk’ children and teens. I think real boxing people are some of the greatest people in the world- a very tough and honest bunch; however, when these jobs were first advertised, some of the more narrow-minded, thought that all a candidate needed to be successful in this job, was to be a tough trainer and competent on the focus-pads; however, while it’s ironic in this tough sport, you actually need to have a lot of empathy and good-will towards the participants in regards to Dublin’s current demographics. To be fair, many of the underdogs in contemporary Irish society, are these new immigrants into our country; which, is not dissimilar to our own plight in the famine years; the recession in the eighties, and even nowadays, after the bubble burst on the Celtic Tiger, where our own people are once again, seriously thinking about emigration. Unfortunately, in regards to the few narrow-minded folk out there, most of them haven’t had much experience with foreign-nationals up until now; furthermore, their attitude towards the Travelling Community, certainly leaves a lot to be desired. In my opinion, it’s a terribly ignorant approach, to dislike or treat people with contempt because of their skin-colour, ethnicity, or culture and therefore, it’s imperative to show empathy and have well-educated, experienced, kind and respectful workers in these positions, while dealing with issues of integration.
Fittingly enough, the ‘European Week Against Racism’ commences next week and it’s fair to say that Oisin Fagan’s, one-hour, non-stop skipping-challenge, shows his sincerity to be a positive, progressive boxing role-model for all children and young people, regardless of colour or ethnicity; which, ultimately challenges the negative philosophies and outdated attitudes that sometimes plague the sport of boxing and society, in general.
Fagan finishes off poignantly, by telling us, “Everyone, no matter where they are from, are entitled to be treated equally and with respect. How dare it be any other way. Who are these uneducated fools who think they are superior to any another person, simply because of the colour of his/her skin? This is the 21st Century folks and with the help of the DCC, I am confident that we will make integration the norm in boxing circles within a few years and hopefully this is used as a paradigm for other sports to follow suit. Fagan continued, “In political-theory, there’s a strategy of initiatives, which use sport to reduce tensions, while shaping nation-to-nation relationships, called ‘ping-pong diplomacy’. However, I believe that boxing, is the best means of ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ and it’s a sport that can act as a fantastic catalyst to bring people together. As one of my co-worker’s, Paul, rightly said yesterday, ‘Forget racism between blacks and whites- there are no colours at odds in boxing, except for ‘The Red VS The Blue’, which of course, for those who are unfamiliar with the rules and regulations of the sport, refers to the the opposing coloured corners, in competitive amateur boxing.”
Fagan’s, “Gael-Force 10,000 Revolutions Per Hour Challenge”,
commences at 4pm-6pm on Thursday, 22nd of March and will take place on Grafton Street, Dublin (at the St Stephen’s Green end of the street). Head along to cheer on Oisin and to help this great cause, promoted by ‘Show Racism the Red Card’. If you would like to donate to this cause, please visit the following website- http://www.theredcard.ie/donate.php