So often it starts with just a provocative word, and in my case it was three ... "Black and Blue". A phrase more commonly used to describe bruising and pain had been used as the title of an autobiography by Chelsea's first black footballer, Paul Canoville.
I was sold on it even before I'd opened the front cover, the book's description hinted at an incredible story of a young footballer who had managed to fulfil his dreams, against all the odds.
But Canoville's dream was often a nightmare, he suffered horrendous abuse from both his own team's supporters, as well as opposition fans, and it took him years to finally become accepted by "his own."
This was back in 1982 -- and his experience wasn't entirely unique. The few players who "looked different" in the 1970s and 80s were regularly subjected to vile abuse from the stands, monkey chanting and the humiliation of being targeted by supporters throwing bananas and other pieces of fruit.
I'm fortunately too young to remember seeing any of this stuff at football grounds. By the time I started going regularly to games in London in the late 80s much of this had died down and now it's very, very rare in the UK. Campaign groups like "Kick It Out" have helped eradicate much of it at sporting arenas, where at the very least it is deemed socially unacceptable. Read full article »