Racists gave me horrific abuse for missing vital penalty in the play-off final but I send them love, says Fankaty Dabo

WHILE Luton rub shoulders with Premier League royalty after May’s historic Wembley triumph Fankaty Dabo, whose missed penalty propelled them there, is rebuilding his career in League Two.

With the shootout in sudden death and the Hatters 6-5 up, Dabo had to convert Coventry’s sixth kick to keep them in the contest.

Fankaty Dabo is rebuilding his career at Forest Green Rovers in League Two

Dabo suffered heartache as his missed penalty in the play-off final against Luton in May cost Coventry promotion to the Premier League

Coventry boss Mark Robins consoles Dabo after his penalty agony

But the 27-year-old right-back skied his shot over the bar, sparking wild Luton celebrations as they completed their fairytale nine-year rise from non-league to Premier League.

Dabo not only had to live with the burden of knowing his miss ended Coventry’s own top-flight dreams, he also was a victim of racial abuse and then got released by the club.

While Luton travel to Fulham in the top flight, Dabo will play for Forest Green as they host Doncaster in the fourth tier.

It is a huge contrast from appearing at Wembley in front of 85,711 to playing at the New Lawn with around 2,000 fans watching.

Dabo for the first time speaks openly about his anguish.

He told SunSport: “I volunteered to take the sixth one before the shootout started.

“It was daunting. I’m not usually a penalty taker but you get there and it’s like ‘Oh s**t, this is massive!’ 

“And you automatically put pressure on yourself because it’s not just about you, it’s a team sport and means so much to everyone — your fans, your family, your team.


“If you score you stay in, if you don’t it’s over. 

“Once I kicked it, I was like ‘Oh no’ and then you don’t want to look up — especially as we were down the Luton end. It hurt.

“If you take the first one and miss someone can turn it around for you but it was the sixth which proved decisive.

“It’s the biggest disappointment I’ve felt but there are bigger things in life you’ve got to get through and that’s just one of them. 

“It was a huge learning curve but there have been bigger occasions and players who have missed penalties.

“The saddest bit from a personal view was that was the last thing I did at Coventry.

“Missing the penalty is what it is but I didn’t feel we achieved what we should’ve done.

“If we’d won, I’d have left on a high.”

Right-back Dabo opens up about his Wembley anguish for the first time

Sadly and predictably, Dabo was targeted by vile racist yobs on social media. To date, police have failed to identify the culprits.

But despite this the right-back is philosophical.

He said: “There are people in this world that have negative things to say — but they couldn’t step on a football pitch and be in my shoes at that moment.

“It doesn’t bother me because there are much more educated people who are willing to tell me what I’ve done well or wrong.

“I’ll listen to it and be open and willing to learn. 

“I’m not Messi, I’m not Ronaldo but I’m a human being.

“Some people are so ignorant and full of hate that I feel sorry for them. I try to spread and send love to them.

“I’ve a friend who speaks to me about spirituality. If everyone sent love to everyone the world would be much better.

“So I don’t stew on the abuse. If that’s what you think, if that’s what you believe then so be it — but I’ll send you love and if one day your eyes open and see that we’re all human, but just different colours, it’ll be a different place. 

‘You’ll understand different cultures and races.”

Dabo was released by Coventry three days after the Wembley heartache — but the defender insists there was nothing cynical in that.

I’m not Messi, I’m not Ronaldo but I’m a human being. Some people are so ignorant and full of hate. I feel sorry for them. I try to spread and send love to them.

Fankaty Dabo

He said: “I had an inkling before the end of the season I’d be let go. People sent me articles saying it was because I missed the penalty but that was never the case.

“It would’ve been unfair on the team had manager Mark Robins told me before the play-offs because then some people would be saying I didn’t care if Coventry went up or not as I was leaving. In fact, regardless, I wanted to win.

“I called him the day after the final, saying, ‘Gaffer, I need to know because I’ve got to put plans in order, I’m going on holiday tomorrow, I don’t want it weighing on my mind.’

“So he was honest and I respected and thanked him for it. We had a good relationship and still do. It needed to be said and once I was told I could get on with life.”

While practising crosses after training, team-mate and former Watford and Birmingham striker Troy Deeney is preparing for a TV interview.

Dabo calls out: “Why don’t you do your day job and get on the end of these crosses?”

Deeney laughs: “Because I need quality balls into the box!”

Forest Green striker, ex-Watford star and SunSport columnist Troy Deeney wanders over for some banter and chat with Dabo and our man Justin Allen

The banter between the two continues as SunSport columnist Deeney later wanders over to listen to our interview while Dabo is talking about some of his battles against the striker down the years.

Deeney says “I obviously won!” while his team-mate is quick to point out, “Last season Coventry finished fifth and your Birmingham team ended 17th!”

“He only remembers the short term,” says Deeney. “What about all those times I beat you at Watford?

“Anyway you’re only going to be here until January! We need someone who can cross a decent ball!”

Dabo shrugs his shoulders before cracking a huge smile: “See what I’ve got to deal with every day!”

The right-back says a few League One offers fell through so opted to join Forest Green on a one-year deal because it is an ambitious club gearing to move into a new stadium and training ground.

But despite the two-division drop, Dabo insists he has not given up on playing in the Premier League.

He said: “I believe I can do it. I’m 27, Vardy played in the Premier League at 30 from non-league so who am I to say I’m not good enough. 

“I must believe in me and prove I’m good enough. If I’m not good enough, I’ve tried it.

Dabo believes he can one day play in the Premier League

“I don’t want to have regrets when I look back, I want to show my kids that daddy tried hard and wanted to play at the highest level.”

And if Forest Green reach the play-off final this season and the game goes to penalties, will Dabo be volunteering?

“Yes,” he smiles. “But this time I’ll ask to take the first one!”

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