Leigh Griffiths has vehemently slammed claims that he mocked the death of Kyle Lafferty’s sister on social media as Scotland qualified for next summer’s Euros, while Northern Ireland failed to.
In what should be one of the happiest moments of Griffiths’ life, the Scotland striker says he has had to deal with a barrage of abuse after liking a picture on Twitter of Northern Ireland forward Lafferty distraught at his country’s failure.
Both teams were in action on Thursday night as they attempted to qualify for the delayed Euro 2020 next summer via their respective play-off finals. Scotland won 5-4 on penalties (1-1 after extra-time) in Serbia, while Northern Ireland lost 2-1 (aet) at home to Slovakia.
Scotland forward Leigh Griffiths (left) has strongly denied claims he mocked the death of Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty’s sister after liking a social media post on Twitter
Griffiths took to Instagram on Friday to slam accusations as to why he liked this tweet (right)
Lafferty’s older sister Sonia died earlier this month after being in poor health for a while
Following the post-match celebrations in the Scotland changing room, Griffiths took to Twitter to like a photo of Lafferty in distress.
The original picture by @Robbiemck1997 was captioned ‘The only thing that could make tonight better. Is this picture.’
Griffiths and Lafferty are rivals following their battles at bitter foes Celtic and Rangers. The former is still at Celtic, while Lafferty has had two spells at Rangers. The 33-year-old has also played for Hearts – the local rivals of Griffiths’ old club Hibernian.
By liking the photo, Griffiths’ drew the wrath of some football fans who claimed he liked it to mock the death of Lafferty’s sister Sonia who passed away on November 5. The 41-year-old died in a Belfast hospital after being in poor health for some time.
This has resulted in Griffiths deactivating his Twitter account and taking to Instagram with a statement to deny and condemn the accusations.
Griffiths has since deactivated his Twitter account in the wake of the abuse he has recieved
‘Not that I should have to, but after what I’m seeing on social media I feel I need to,’ he shared via his Instagram story.
‘After last night’s win, I want to state that I was NOT slagging Kyle Lafferty for losing a family member, that is the lowest of the low and not the type of person I am.
‘The picture was in a Northern Ireland strip and the fact they DIDN’T qualify and we did, which has been a huge achievement for the entire nation!
‘Everyone gets carried away and people think I liked it before his sister died, absolutely not.
‘We won, they didn’t, we’ve been mocked for years about failure, but we did it.
‘I don’t deserve what I’ve been sent, but I’ve had enough and something needed to be said on the matter!’
Griffiths has overcome mental health issues and urged people in April to speak out if suffering
Griffiths’ statement comes just months after he urged anyone struggling with mental health issues to speak out about it, as opposed to bottling it up.
The forward missed the second half of last season with personal issues and didn’t want anyone subjected to the demons he himself faced.
Speaking about those potentially struggling with lockdown enforced due to the coronavirus pandemic, Griffiths’ advice to the Celtic View podcast in April was: ‘Just to speak up. That’s the most important thing.
‘If people keep stuff bottled in a lot – and that was the case with me, I kept things bottled up – it will tip you over the edge.
‘But the more you speak out, there are loads of people who will be willing to listen and give you advice.
‘If you can speak out, it might end up helping you, and you can start enjoying life again.’
Griffiths celebrates with his Scotland team-mates after they qualified for Euro 2020 next year
Fast-forward to now and what should have been a morning of basking in celebration has been anything but for the 30-year-old after helping Scotland qualify for a major tournament for the first time since 1998.
Steve Clarke’s side looked like they were going to achieve the feat in normal time when Ryan Christie fired them ahead in Belgrade on 52 minutes.
However, the Scots were pegged back in injury time when Real Madrid striker Luka Jovic equalised with a header.
The match went to penalties with Griffiths scoring Scotland’s first penalty to put them ahead before David Marshall was the hero by saving Serbian striker’s Aleksandar Mitrovic spot-kick.
Scotland’s players celebrate after reaching their first major tournament since 1998
The joyous scenes in Belgrade were not matched in Belfast as Northern Ireland suffered heartache at the hands of Slovakia.
Northern Ireland had equalised in dramatic style when defender Milan Skriniar put the ball into his own net with two minutes of normal time left to cancel out Juraj Kucka’s early opener.
Lafferty then nearly won it for the hosts when his long-range effort hit the post in the 90th minute.
However, the game went to extra time and substitute Michal Duris made the most of a lucky ricochet to score Slovakia’s winner in the 110th minute.
Northern Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign ended in heartache on Thursday night
Slovakia celebrate after beating Northern Ireland to book their place at Euro 2020