Monday, 28 November 2016

Black and white

Last night, as part of a season on Black British history, BBC2 had a programme about a 1979 testimonial match between black and white football teams at West Bromwich Albion's Hawthorns ground, presented by lifelong fan of the club Adrian Chiles.

Like most people I suspect, I hadn't heard of this match before. Although it seems inconceivable now, the players involved all saw it as either uncontroversial or even progressive. In a period when racist chanting and violence on the terraces stopped many black fans from entering football grounds, the presence of a significant number of people from the local Afro-Caribbean community among the 7,000 crowd, many of them no doubt attracted by the chance to see some of their young, Black British footballing heroes play in front of them, was seen as something of a step forward,

The general tone of the programme was "look how far we've come", and rightly so given the archive footage of National Front paper sellers outside turnstiles, Stanley knives wielded as weapons and bananas thrown onto the pitch, but former player and now QPR director of football Les Ferdinand did pop up at the end to give a necessary reminder of the racist abuse black footballers still face online and the problems they have moving into management and coaching at the end of their playing careers.

1 comment:

  1. I cannot imagine such a game taking place today, but I don't regard it as racist: it's important to judge events in the context of the times, and this looks like a genuine attempt to address racism in football.