Friday, September 07, 2007

KUCF AGM - really enjoyable - top Liverpool player in attendance

What a thoroughly enjoyable AGM last night in Fairfield police club.

We applauded some of the young men receive coaching certificates from the County FA, we saw a new Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer appointed and heard about some of the successful tournaments over the last 12 months or so. We heard from a county FA referee about how the lads could earn potentially £70k as referees and offering to show them a career path to make that happen. We heard from a guy from Kick Racism Out of Football, or Kick It Out. All very good stuff.

But the highlight was the speech from Howard Gayle, Liverpool FC's first black player who joined the squad in 1977 and won a European Cup champions medal with them. He explained about the racism he faced as a player and how he learnt to tackle that by playing his best and scoring as many goals as he could. He encouraged the youngsters from all round the world who have now settled in Kensington and who were at the meeting, to put their education before their football but not to stop dreaming the dream.

He played for lots of other clubs, notably Newcastle, Birmingham, Fulham, Halifax, Dallas, Blackburn, but as a reds fan his heart always belonged in Liverpool and playing for them was the highlight of his career.

The young lads were delighted to have their photograph taken with him afterwards, and get him to autograph their certificates.

A great meeting, I just wish there had been more there, to see for themselves the truth that football breaks down the barriers in communities, whatever colour you are. The beautiful game, team spirit, comradeship, it is a great weapon to fight division.

1 comment:

Marie Thomas said...

Hats off to Howard Gayle for his remarkable career with Liverpool and his other clubs. Being a personal friend of his in the 70's, I followed his career closely.I salute him for his professional success. On the other hand I would like to mention that Leroy Stephens was the first black ever to play for Liverpool(born 1960). He played in the Liverpool under 14's schoolboys team, around 1972-1974. Unfortunately, like your article mentions, he too faced racism on the field, which prevented him from having the chance to be accepted as a professional player. I remember being at the games of Leroy stephens and seeing bananas being thrown on the pitch in his direction, a stereotypically racist gesture. He was also referred to as a "monkey "in the team, at times. So although, Howard Gayle was the first black professional, Leroy Stephens faced similar setbacks, many years before this as Liverpool's first black undersigned player. Thanks for those great early years, Leroy.