'Promising footballer' lost his way and started dealing Class A drugs

Anthony Down was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Boland Shalo was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Charlotte Bond

A promising young footballer who began taking and dealing drugs after suffering a serious knee injury has avoided an immediate prison sentence. 

Boland Shalo, 20, had trials with both Barnet and Crystal Palace as a teenager but the knee injury caused him to "lose his way" and become involved in class A drugs, Ipswich Crown Court heard. 

Shalo began taking drugs and then fell into debt with dealers, who then recruited him to start selling heroin and cocaine, the court heard. 

Benedict Peers, prosecuting, said police attended a block flats in Ipswich on October 2, 2019, and saw two men walking away. 

Officers searched the men and a Vauxhall Zafira, and more than 60 drug wraps were found in the vehicle. 

Shalo's DNA was found on a number of the wraps, the court heard. 

A 'burner' phone was also discovered, which contained messages "consistent with class A dealing", Mr Peers said. 

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Shalo, of Lightfoot Road, London, previously pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of heroin and being concerned in the supply of cocaine as well as two charges of possession with intent to supply class A drugs. 

Sophie Shotton, mitigating, said Shalo was once a "promising footballer" and engineering student but the serious knee injury had affected him. 

He became homeless in 2018, and became further associated with people using class A drugs, Ms Shotton said. 

She said Shalo was "a very different person than he was at the time of the offences" and had not used class A drugs since December 2019. 

Shalo now has a stable job and stable home address and is hoping to move in with his girlfriend in the near future, Ms Shotton told the court. 

"He has led a lawful life since and one he wishes to live in the future," she added. 

Sentencing Shalo on Monday, Recorder Guy Ayers said it was a "classic case" of a drug user getting into debt with dealers and then forced into that world themselves. 

Shalo was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for 21 months, and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work. 

He must also complete 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days.