COLCHESTER United goalkeeper Shamal George suffers racist abuse at Barrow last month and before long he's probably already pining just to be his regular, jobbing self: just a pro footballer, someone interviewed exclusively about plying his trade, not his skin colour.

"I've never had that [racism] before - it's a new experience," said George.

You don't know whether to be pleased he'd reached 23 years old unaffected by these ills in-game, or dumbfounded because, as many (including boss Hayden Mullins) say, it's 2021 and we're here masquerading as an Enlightened Age.

Former West Ham and Newcastle United goalkeeper Shaka Hislop and other leading luminaries showed their support, almost like they themselves were marshalling some underfire goal-nets.

We were depressingly back to black, discussing mindless minority unrest all over again, perhaps more disturbingly on our own doorstep now, coming so soon as it has after England men's national team similarly fell foul of things during a rearranged Euros. Groundhog Day.

Sometimes you have to say: no more. Strong souls can also be bruised. In the heat of battle at Barrow, Shamal to his credit stayed immensely steadfast.

Reporting a live incident like that could well be the most courageous act any of us ever witness live in a sporting arena.

He's a continued standout performer in Colchester's early encounters this season, proving such strong form is no fluke.


Up the U's - Colchester United fan Matt Calmus with U's legend Karl Duguid

Despite a 2-0 home loss, folk still called him man of the match against Salford City. Business as usual.

Still outrunning an XG of possible goals against by sometimes more than four or more per game and getting regular best performer shouts, private fears are stoking that he's presently the club's most saleable asset.

A true student, he has admitted to watching every match back on video, win, lose, or draw.

These are all things to impress even non-Colchester United fans.

That racial profile comes last on that long list is testament itself to Shamal; he's every inch an inspiration, and currently so every single week.

He was too at Swindon, where I fortunately snapped that now famed solidarity t-shirt, with worthy strapline: 'Love Col U - Hate Racism.'

You can only imagine what a time he'd had beforehand; perhaps in a funny sort of way, our stopper relished seeing a partisan crowd again so soon after those race row events.

It's semi-amusing to watchers by now that he's scooped star-ratings so often recently, but plaudits are thoroughly deserved and based solely on a series of stellar saves, not sentiment.

Shams has superb handling of both his goalmouth posts and online Twitter ones; his timeline reads like a perfectly-curated scrapbook in the art of show-stopping save negation.

A groundswell of internet support following the alleged abuse must've helped our gloved Goliath keep calm and also feel decidedly human again, against a tirade designed to reduce his stature.

Not chippy as he might be, amid the slings and arrows of outrageous slurs, he's instead excelling. Stay classy, Shamal: we stand with you.