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Whites v Blacks: How Football Changed a Nation
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“We all thought, ‘Great idea!’” recalls retired footballer Brendon Batson. “It was just a novelty.” He’s remembering his part in the testimonial match organised for West Bromwich Albion’s Len Cantello in 1979, in which a team of black players – then a comparative rarity in English football – took on a team of white players.
“Now the very thought of it makes you wince,” says presenter Adrian Chiles as he talks to many of those involved to work out whether a blacks v whites game was right, wrong, odd, progressive or a bit of harmless fun.
Naturally, this leads into the bigger story of racism on the terraces in the 1970s, as players like Batson, Cyrille Regis and Bob Hazell recall the chants, the n-words, the hail of bananas thrown at them in some grounds.
It’s a sobering slice of social history. At one point Hazell tells Chiles, “I’m bitter and angry about the racist things we had to go through in what was the best time of my life.”
Adrian Chiles presents the story of a famous football match played in 1979 at West Bromwich Albion, in which a team composed entirely of black players took on an all-white side. The game took place at a time when black people were considered unwelcome in the sport, whether as players, fans or behind the scenes, and for those on the pitch that day, this was a rare and vital opportunity to make their mark on the sport. Adrian reunites players from both teams and reflects on how football has changed in the intervening time.
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