Breaking barriers – a spotlight on footballing greats for Black History Month

History is often taught through the lens of the ‘high and mighty’ – or focused on events in distant lands.

For his presentation on Black History Month, however, Nathan Edwards was determined to shine a light on something much more local and relatable.

Nathan, who is Deputy Head of Adult SEND and Care Leavers in Pastoral and Learning Support at Leeds City College, used his passion for football as inspiration.

His upcoming online presentation for Black History Month will focus on the lives of two influential black footballers who became legends for their respective Yorkshire teams.

Albert Johanneson may have passed away, in extremely sad circumstances, back in 1995 but he will always be a hero to Leeds United fans, thanks to his dazzling displays for the club almost throughout the  1960s.

Cyril ‘Ces’ Podd meanwhile, now aged 69, is held in similar high esteem by Bradford City fans thanks to the incredible 565 appearances he made for the Bantams between 1970 and 1984. Ces also played internationally, for Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Taking pride in sporting pioneers

The theme of this year’s Black History Month is Proud To Be, which Nathan will be incorporating into his talk.

He said: “For me, I’m proud to be British and I’m proud to be a British football fan – and football does break down barriers.

“When we watch good football we just want to see it and cheer about it and it doesn’t matter who’s playing in front of us, they’re our heroes.

“I’m also hoping to talk about something that will resonate with people because when I was at school it was always all about American black history – we need to learn about British Black people, and their contribution to society.

“So I’ve chosen to focus on these two footballers, Albert Johanneson and Ces Podd, who were among the first Black players to establish themselves in English football.”

Lasting legacies

Albert Louis Johanneson’s massive contribution to Leeds and its football team is immortalised in a Leeds Civic Trust plaque that was installed at the East Stand entrance of Elland Road in 2019. (A photograph of the plaque is shown here with kind permission from Leeds United).

It reads: “Born and raised in South Africa, he found a new life in England.

“A mesmerising left winger, he made 200 appearances for Leeds United from 1961 to 1969, scoring 67 goals, playing an integral role in helping the club win promotion to the First Division in 1964.

“In 1965 he became the first Black African to play in an FA Cup Final. 1940 -1995.”

A tribute to Cesc Podd has also been created in Bradford where a life-sized stencil of the right back now graces a wall beside the front doorway of the Record Café, on North Parade. The artwork, unveiled earlier this year, is part of a project celebrating the city’s icons.

Nathan is looking forward to sharing the achievements of both men with more people when he delivers his presentation.

Huge contributions to society

He said: “For me it’s always ‘let’s find the positives in the history’ because there are plenty there and there have been so many influential Black figures.

“Black people have been around in this country since at least Roman times and Britain’s always had people coming from across the world and bringing their cultures with them, it’s always been a melting pot.

“We’ve always imported the things that we deem culturally-exciting, including types of sport.

“These two players made a huge contribution to our society.

“Albert had come from South Africa and played for Leeds United in the 1960s, when he was instrumental in getting them to the 1965 FA Cup final at Wembley.

“He was a really important person in the history of Leeds, who unfortunately had a very sad end, but I want to focus on his accomplishments.

“Ces signed for Bradford City in 1970 and became one of their key players for the next 14 years, later playing for Halifax Town and Scarborough. He later did some coaching in Leeds for underprivileged kids and I’ve actually got a friend there who was coached by him.”

As part of its Black History Month activities, Leeds City College recently held a Windrush celebration event that had originally been planned for last year, but had to be delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The day showcased the work of students who had taken part in a letter writing project with some local Windrush-generation residents.

For more details on Black History Month 2021, visit www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk .

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