At the end of the sixties black players began to be frequent in English football. It is not that there had not been before. Still in Victorian times, Preston North End had Arthur Warthon, a Ghanaian, son of a wealthy family who sent him to London to study. Goalkeeper of prodigious faculties, was admired as a rare phenomenon. Then there was some isolated case more, but when the fact began to be frequent, the racist sectors began to worry. How far would this go?
Those guys had a bad time. I speak of Stan Horne, John Charles (not to be confused with the Welshman), Mike Trevilcok, Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis, Viv Anderson, Luther Blisset, Howard Gayle ... Many were disowned by their own fans, all by rivals . When they ran the band, they shouted at them, uuuuuh! Often someone would throw a banana or some other fruit, to the majority's rejoicing. Cyrille Regis came to pick up an envelope with bullets from his mailbox.
The coaches themselves spoke, in private, and sometimes not so much, with some contempt for them. And the press. It was said that they could only serve for the attack, where their speed and power were useful, but not defenses or means, because they lacked intelligence to interpret the keys of the game.
That only started to change when Ron Greenwood, an old midfielder, radio operator of the RAF in World War II, became coach. First made debut to Cunningham (yes, the one that then would come to Spain) in the sub-21, but that did not extend. The bombing was the appearance of Viv Anderson in the absolute. Anderson was the right-back of the great Nottingham Forest of Brian Clough, who twice won the European Cup. High player, fast, elastic, intelligent. By then I was 22 years old.
It was on November 22, 1978, before Czechoslovakia, in Wembley. England won 1-0, and the play started it, in a run by his band. At the end of the match he found in the dressing room congratulatory telegrams from the Queen and Elton John.
But vespers were hectic. Ron Greenwood ended up solving the questions: "Be yellow, purple or black, if it's worth for the selection I choose". For her part, Viv Anderson, well instructed, gave messages of normality: "My parents were born in Jamaica, I was in Nottingham, I am English, I do not know anything else, this is my place and I have never felt strange".
I was being economical with the truth. Later he published an exemplary book, First Among Unequals. There he told his experience in the debut with 18 years in Newcastle. When he went out with the teammates to step on the field an hour before the game, the fans insulted him, made guttural noises. Destroyed, he asked the manager, Dave Mackay, not to play. "He forced me in. He did me a favor, but it was hard for me to play with 50,000 people screaming every time I picked up the ball."
Not much later came the great Brian Clough. Anderson was a substitute. In the Carlisle field he ordered her to warm up. The band started running and they threw bananas at him. Then, pears and apples. He returned to the shelter of the bench. Clough looked at him:
- Did not I tell you to warm up?
- Yes, but they throw bananas, apples, pears ...
- Well, move your ass, go back there and bring me two pears and a banana!
- He warmed up, went out, played under the screaming. The opponent he marked whispered in his
- ear: "Black shit." In the end, Clough told him:
- If you let people like that dictate your life, I'll choose someone else.
In 2000, Viv Anderson was appointed a Member of the Royal Order of the British Empire, in 2004 she entered the Hall of Fame, was ambassador of the candidacy of England for the 2018 World Cup and is permanently present in the campaigns of FIFA against racism . Every morning he remembers that at the end of that Wembley game, Bob Latchford, of Everton, told him that that day would mark the rest of his life.
This Monday, England visits us and nobody notices the color of their players' skin. The world has changed a lot in these years.