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08May

A New Formation: How Black Footballers Shaped the Modern Game, edited by Calum Jacobs – review

These pieces about players of the present and the past illuminate the racism that blighted the game and the bravery of trailblazers

I’ll never forget my first game at White Hart Lane. As I walked to the stadium, my hand in my father’s, I could feel the crowd swelling around me, the language as colourful as the sea of flags swimming in the air. This was a world detached from everyday reality. The environment was electric. Adrenaline coursed through my veins. I was terrified and exhilarated at the same time.

When I reached the stands, I saw my heroes for the first time in the flesh. As a young boy, watching Tottenham play was a chance to see myself in something that I could never find in TV or books. Garth Crooks, a young black English centre-forward, played alongside Argentinian players Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. My parents came to the UK from Guyana, a black-majority country on the South American coast; this was representation like nothing I’d experienced before.

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