NORTHERN Ireland footballer Kyle Lafferty has said the right place to be is with the Northern Ireland squad as they take on Slovakia tonight (Thursday), just a week after the death of his older sister, Sonia.

Sonia Lafferty (41) passed away on Thursday, November 5, having been in poor health for some time, and Kyle said if he missed the game, he would be letting her down.

“On Thursday night it will be the biggest game for Northern Ireland in recent years, and many people might think or ask questions should I be here so soon after the loss of my best friend, but if I missed this game, then I would be letting Sonia down,” said the 32-year-old.

Kyle described Sonia as his “biggest fan” who always had his back as he made his way as a professional footballer.

“I’ll remember Sonia for being this outspoken lady who said whatever she felt, didn’t matter who you were.

“The amount of times I had to ring her or text her and tell her, ‘Sonia, please, we’ve spoken about this so many times – can you stay off social media and stop fighting with people [fans]’ and her response every single time was, ‘Kyle, you’re my wee bro, nobody will say one bad word about you’,” he said.


And if anybody had to be keeping a close eye on Sonia’s social media during the transfer windows, they would probably have got an early indication of the identity of Kyle’s next club.

“When moving, if anyone with a bit of sense looked at her Twitter page, then they would know what club I would be moving to before I signed, because Sonia would go ahead and follow that club’s page straight away, when I told her where I was going to.”

“She was football-daft, and my biggest fan. I’m so happy she got to see me play for not only my dream club – Rangers – but also to wear the shirt of my country with pride every single time.

“So everything I’ve done in football that’s been the proudest moment for me, she’s seen that, and lived the dream with me.”

The Northern Ireland striker and his family will never get over the loss of their beloved daughter and sister, who was always at the end of the phone for a chat.

However, the amount of people who stood out in Kesh to pay their respects on Sonia’s funeral day of Saturday, November 7 was a huge comfort, said Kyle.

“My father, mother, Paula and I knew she was a likeable person and had friends everywhere, and that drive from Paula’s house to the church opened all of our eyes and made us very emotional, but proud, that so many people came out and gave her the send-off she deserved.

“I must thank everyone who turned out. It was great to see so many faces in the streets of Kesh that I hadn’t seen for years, and I’m so glad they are all keeping safe and well at this difficult time for everyone right now,” he added.

But as Kyle’s focus turns to the game at Windsor Park tonight, with a place in Euro 2020 up for grabs, he knows that his sister will be looking down on him and providing him with inspiration in what is a huge night for Northern Ireland.

He said: “She would have wanted me to be out there playing for my country and, hopefully, making history again, so the decision to join up with the squad was an easy one to make.

“I’ve got close friends with very big personalities in the team, and it’s the right place to be.

“On Thursday I will be doing everything to make Sonia, my mum, dad, Paula and my wife and kids, Sienna and Lamiya, proud of me.

“I know Sonia will be watching and will be there with me, every kick, every header I make,” added Kyle.