Cyrus Christie interview: Prematurely born daughter changed my outlook, I can’t let Fulham exile break me down

·6-min read
Cyrus Christie is hoping to leave Fulham in January after making just one appearance so far this season  (Getty Images)
Cyrus Christie is hoping to leave Fulham in January after making just one appearance so far this season (Getty Images)

Fulham’s Cyrus Christie will always remember the shock of seeing his baby daughter in intensive care for the first time.

Christie’s partner Nahide experienced a series of complications during pregnancy and, one night in September, she was rushed to hospital while struggling to breathe.

Doctors had to deliver the baby a month premature and, after a sleepless three-day ordeal while Nahide was stabilised, their first child, Amaya, was born.

“When she came out, she didn’t make a sound,” Christie says. “You’re panicking then, even more. They said she was breathing and you’re thinking everything’s fine, you’re holding your baby and then the doctors come rushing in saying they have to take her to the ICU.

“When I came in, she was all wired up, had all the tubes through her nose. That was a shock, seeing her there for the first time.

“It was an emotional rollercoaster for three or four days. By the time she was actually born, mentally, physically and emotionally you were just drained.”

Amaya spent more than three weeks in the infant ICU, with so many minor complications that Christie can’t recall all the details now, and Nahide also needed time to recover.

“She’s still quite tiny now, but she’s catching up,” Christie says. “It was tough for my partner, both of them being ill. Thankfully both of them are doing really well now.

“It was a tough period, you have to be strong mentally. My friend lost his daughter to cancer, so you just have to count your blessings. I can’t complain when there’s people out there in worse situations. But it was definitely an eye opener. I have a whole new human being relying on me. It definitely changes your whole outlook on life.”

Christie is an experienced Republic of Ireland international, both a dogged defender and one of the game’s more thoughtful and socially-conscious players.

He has won awards for his work in the community with the charity Football Beyond Borders, and been a vocal and unflinching campaigner against racism.

While fatherhood has not exactly changed his perspective on the abuse he’s experienced since childhood, Amaya has made it even harder for Christie to understand his online trolls.

“I grew up with [racism], so it gets to the point where it’s in one ear and out the other,” says Christie, who has Jamaican, Lebanese and Irish heritage.

“When I came to Fulham, a guy was sending me pictures of black people hanging from trees and saying, ‘This is you and your family next’.

“The police make out they’re going to do something – but they don’t. It gets to the point where people don’t bother commenting and speaking about it. That’s the point it got to with me.

“I even said to Fulham I don’t want to speak to the police, there’s no point. After we went through the investigation, they said, ‘I can see why you didn’t want to’.

“Fulham were really thorough and dealt with it really well. They have a lot of people doing a lot to make a change.

“Now I have a daughter, I think if you had kids you’d be super protective if someone was doing that to them. So I don’t understand why you’d do it to someone else. It just doesn’t make sense. People forget you’re human beings. You’re just classed as a footballer.

“You look and it’s a 40-year-old man with three kids abusing you. You just think, ‘Go and look after your kids!’

“Or it’s someone old enough to be your dad and you’re thinking, ‘Would you want your kid to be in my situation? If someone [abused] them, how would you feel?’”

Christie believes the game is inching in the right direction. “It’s moved forward in terms of people being able to talk about [racism],” he says.

“Before, not many would, regardless of whether they’d been on the receiving end of it or not. Now you’re seeing a lot more white people talking about it and at times their voice is probably more powerful than someone going through it.

“But it’s small gains, nowhere near enough. It’s the same old conversation really: social media platforms have to do more.”

Christie has barely kicked a ball in anger since returning to parent club Fulham from Nottingham Forest in the summer, making just one appearance in the Carabao Cup this season.

He sensed from the off that his opportunities were likely to be limited under new head coach Marco Silva, and the 29-year-old has been in and out of the first-team squad, often training alone for long periods without a proper explanation.

He is out of contract at the end of the season and desperate to be allowed to kickstart his career at a new club in January.

“Mentally, I can’t let it break me down,” he says. “I always thought I’d be given an opportunity but I’ve found it hard to come by.

"The boys are doing fantastic this season. The manager’s made a decision – and that’s football. You learn that. You have to get on with it. I have to look for a new chapter, get back to playing football and be the best version of myself as a footballer. I have lost that at Fulham.

“Personally, being out there on my own has been tough. I could understand it if I was being an a******e or kicking off. If you’ve got clarity, it makes it easier for you.

“I’ve played over 400 games, I went to the Euros with Ireland as the youngest in the squad. I’ve played World Cup qualifiers, two play-off finals with Fulham, been promoted to the Premier League.

“I’ve got a wealth of experience, it’s just about getting back to playing regular football. I believe I’ve got a lot to offer many teams – as long as it’s the right fit, the right style of football for me to thrive.”

There is one reason, though, for Christie to be thankful he remained at Fulham in the summer.

“When I look back now, it was a good thing I didn’t eventually move in the end, I had to be around for the birth of my daughter and support my partner,” he says.

“The biggest thing for me in life is being the best father I can be for my daughter. I need to be there for her, I can’t let her down. It’s such an amazing feeling. It’s indescribable, really. Especially with the things we went through to be where we are now, it just makes it even more amazing.”

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