Art exhibit celebrates black footballers

By Will Astbury

MANCHESTER’S Sportcity is playing host to an art exhibition which celebrates black footballers.

The exhibit, created by Colin Yates, kicked off of in style on Monday 12 October 2009 in the Visitor’s Centre near the Manchester City stadium in front of a host of dignitaries and stars from football.

Former Manchester United stars Andy Cole and Tony Whelan have endorsed the exhibition and PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has also lent his support for the project.

Yates put together this exhibition over the last 10 years after being awarded a One Game, One Community grant from Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion campaign, and the Football Foundation, the UK’s largest sports charity.

Speaking to Manchester Mouth, Yates explained why he had undertaken the project, saying: “I’m an amateur footballer and I never was good enough to become a professional but I’ve always loved with the game.

“I’m from Coventry and some of my team-mates used to get a lot of abuse because we had a very diverse team, consisting of both black and Asian players.

“So I decided to do something about it using my skills as an artist.”

The exhibition aims to make a high visibility stand against discrimination and to promote equality. It runs from 12 to the 26 October 2009 and is entirely free.

It features a range of images of the faces of black football while referencing the benefits football has on minority communities and delving into the history of black players in the game.

The likes of Rio Ferdinand, Ian Wright, Sol Campbell and Thierry Henry feature in the project alongside images of Viv Anderson, the first black man to play for England, and Arthur Wharton, one time fasted man in the world and the first black player in the world to be awarded a professional contract.

In the Rio Ferdinand picture Yates concealed images of Damilola Taylor and Steven Lawrence, who were both murdered due to their race and were from the same area of London as Rio, to reference the work both Ferdinand and football do for communities.

“I think if we didn’t welcome players from other ethnic groups into football the game would be far more one dimensional. I wouldn’t want to even imagine a game like that,” said Yates.

Speaking to Manchester Mouth, Gordon Taylor, said: “I’m proud that we’re staging such an exhibition in Manchester.

“We’ve been campaigning rally hard for racial equality in the game since the 90s and I’m so pleased that this project in particular has been so successful.”

The project is part of 1000 events taking place across the country during October.

Grants have been awarded to groups in some of the most deprived areas of the country to organise events and activities as part of the initiative. The activities being supported include youth forums, exhibitions, educational programmes and anti-racism themed football tournaments.

Piara Powar, director for Kick It Out, said: “This money will help community groups of all shapes and sizes deliver their own unique One Game, One Community flavour to the weeks of action.

“This is a fantastic project and we’re delighted to fund one with such a strong message.”

Paul Thorogood, chief executive of the Football Foundation, said: “We are delighted that Foothold UK has been successful in securing this funding from the Football Foundation and Kick It Out.

“Football is something that unites people and I look forward to seeing this year’s One Game, One Community projects tap into our national game’s unique ability to bring communities across the country closer together.”

If you would like to visit similar projects in your area visit http://www.kickitout.org

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