|Mark's-ism today: Leeds, Gifted and Black....|
Sat 23rd Oct 2010 19:59 by Marko
From becoming the first black player in a FA Cup final to a lonely death in a rotten Leeds tower-block.
I suppose it is easy to get a bit fatiqued about the many offical days and month's even beyond the norm: eg Christmas, New Year, Bank Holidays being the norm.
Last week was national arthritis week, however what a good and noble cause that is. October has also been Black History Month and I feel we at Leeds should acknowledge one man in particular: Albert Johanneson.
I will acknowledge that the subject of Leeds and black players has often been controversial. In the 1980's, even though we produced the popular Terry Connor through our youth ranks being black and playing for the other side meant you would be subject to appalling abuse, moronic "Monkey" chants and "Shoot that Nigger" were common chants at ER.
When I first started attending matches at Elland Road, I remarked how it was easier to buy a copy of The Flag (The then newspaper of the far-right National Front) than the programme on Lowfields Roads. Thankfully those days have long gone and although we have seen the brain-donors of the far-right sign up to the BNP and EDL their presence at ER is non-existent. For now that is. We however should not be complacent and never allow the vile verbal filth and literature of the 1980's to return to our stadium.
September 28th this year saw the 15th anniversary of the death of Albert Johannson. Albert played for Leeds between 1961-1970 so he was before my time but my elder peers, not all Leeds fans and admittedly not all multiculturalists would marvel about his gifted skills on the left-wing for Don Revie's team. Albert was the first black player to play in an FA Cup final (1965) but after 172 games for Leeds and 48 goals, he moved to York City. After a short-spell with the Minstermen, his life spiralled into the misery of divorce - being estranged from his family, alcoholism and a lonely death aged just 55 in a grim Leeds tower-block.
It could be argued that black people back in 1970 were still considered inferior in our society (some may say this prejudice still exists today?). Could the club have done more for Albert? Was he simply unlucky? Footballers back then were not paid the kings ransoms of today (Man United have just agreed a £250K a week deal with a prolific Kerb-Crawler). The late, great John Charles was nearly sent to prison once for non-payment of Council Rates.
I understand the club did pay for a headstone for Albert during the Ridsdale era (so maybe all the cash was not wasted on goldfish and Mercs for the typing pool). I must admit it did rankle when having attended a Rubgy League game at the Odsal between Bradford Northern and Leeds in the early 90's, the programme reported that Bradford had held a collection for Albert. He must have been a pretty desperate poor soul to have to rely on handouts from a different city and different sport. There was also an article in one of the red-tops reporting on how he spent his lonely final days swigging cider.
A couple of weeks ago, Lucas Radebe was at ER promoting his new book. I love the guy and good luck to him. I am not sure if he is a multi-millionnaire, if he is then I do not bedgrudge him a penny as he has risen from poverty through sheer hard graft unlike the silver-spoon weaned Bullingdon Boys who currently run our country. Thank god we have moved on from the tragedy of dear Albert and we know how to look after our own now, black and white.
So our contribution to black history month should simply be Albert. Apparently a lovely man who rose from the Townships to becoming a household name in the UK. Somebody who paved the way for other black players to suceed in the English game. A man who's heart-breaking, tragic end will hopefully serve as a poignant lesson to us all. We should rejoice his contribution to our club and the game, as well as mourning his downfall and sad passing.
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