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Football Firsts scores in Hammersmith

GOOD TO TALK: The Football Firsts panel with host Schumann

A TEAM of football legends were in attendance at Hammersmith Town Hall on October 13 at a special event celebrating the achievements and experiences of black players.

A large audience heard from Hope Powell; former player for and manager of the England Women's team, Pat Nevin; a one time Chelsea player and now a broadcaster, Paul Elliott; the first black captain of Chelsea, Chris Ramsey; technical director at Queens Park Rangers, Howard Gayle; the first black footballer to play for Liverpool, Ricky Hill; former England midlfielder and Luton Town legend and Andy Impey who played for QPR and West Ham.

The brainchild of Chelsea’s first black player Paul Canoville and award winning broadcaster Geoff Schumann, the night was endorsed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, the Professional Footballers Association Kick It Out and the Football Association.

Canoville was unable to attend due to ill health but provided a video clip from his hospital bed to get proceedings under way. The night’s focus was on the equality, diversity and the challenges faced by pioneering figures in the history of black footballers in the United Kingdom; with the panellists sharing both good and bad experiences.

Hill, one of the most gifted players to grace an English football field, said that he was disappointed that with his experience and qualifications that he was coaching or managing in England. Gayle recalled the time when a Liverpool team mate abused him racially. He also remembered scoring at Burnley and at the same time silencing racist fans.

CROWD SCENE: The Hammersmith Town Hall audience had a great event

Ramsey, one of the most qualified coaches in Europe, gave sound advice to aspiring coaches in terms of preparation for job interviews. Compere Schumann said: "I felt it essential to honour some of the modern day pioneers of the beautiful game and encourage them to tell their stories to true fans like myself.

"I wanted to create an evening where the general public could get up close and personal with some of their former heroes and heroines, to hear first-hand stories about their struggles within the context of a live audience."

He said: "Although we’ve come a long way, it’s still worthwhile to look back to understand exactly how far we’ve come, as well as look forward and seek out ways to make continued progress."

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