FEATURED STORY

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The Football Match

(Based on true events)

(Part two)

© 2009 Norman Samuda-Smith

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Form 3A was silent for a while and scribbled into their exercise books the solutions to the equations Mr Goode had left for them on the blackboard.  Outside, they could hear Mr Highley’s raised voice cussing Steven Callow; and they knew Steven was in big trouble.  Sitting together at the back of the classroom were three black boys, Delroy, Peter and Errol.  A few of their peers glanced nervously at the classroom door hoping Mr Highley wouldn’t come in and catch them cracking jokes about a certain classmate’s short, back and sides hair cut.

          “You should perm yuh hair and grow an afro like us slap ‘ead,”  Delroy giggled at freckled-faced Paul Shaw, “…then you wouldn’t have to cut yuh hair.”

Peter and Errol laughed loudly with Delroy, while the rest of the class wished they would calm down, cos they didn’t want to get the cane.

          “Anyway,”  Peter intervened after he gained control of his tittering, “…leave Shaw alone, there’s more important things to chat ’bout.”

          “Like wha’?”  Delroy resumed scrawling into his exercise book.

          “Like did you see Match of the Day on Saturday?”

          “Yeh man!” Errol yelled, “…did yuh see Clyde Best’s two goals ‘gainst Man United, did yuh see it Delroy?”

          “Course I did man, he was brilliant.  Pity West Ham lost 3 – 2 though.”

          “Is true.  He’s got skills like Pele star.  They should pick him to play for England.”

Delroy threw his head back and laughed loudly at Errol, “How can he play for England when he was born in Bermuda, yuh joker!”

          “How’d you know he was born there?”

          “Cos I read it in the Shoot Magazine last week Errol, that’s why.”

          “Oh, me never know.”

          “Black guys can’t play football!”  Harry Keane better known as ‘H’ interrupted their conversationHe was the captain of the third year ‘A’ team who always had his hair in the brush cut American marine style; a very skilful footballer who played attacking midfield.  Nobody liked H.  He was the sort of guy that would wind up a person to the point of a fight, then he would call his elder brother to back him and bail him out any time situations got too far.  His smug grin wiped the smiles off the faces of Delroy, Peter and Errol.

          “Course we can play football.”  Delroy snapped.

          “Nah.  They can’t.”  H laughed sarcastically.  “How many black players are playing in the first division then?”

          “One.”  Errol sheepishly replied.

         “Yeh oneClyde Best.  Let’s face it lads, black players ain’t got the guts or the skill.  They just can’t play football.  End of story.

         “D’yuh wanna kick in the mouth!”  Peter yelled rising from his chair.

         “C’mon Peter, try it.  C’mon!”

         “Hold on, hold on!”  Delroy butted in.  “Brazil are world champions H.  How ’bout that then?  And the best player in the world is black.  Pele ennit?”

         “That’s Brazil mate.  How about here in England son?  Look at you Delroy.  You’re such a wuss.  You used to play in the A team, didn’t yah?  But when yah got tackled four months ago and yah saw a little blood, yah gave up football to play basketball, didn’t yah?”

         “That tackle almost broke my leg H, you know that.”

         “Ahh, yah crap!  Yah can’t play football.  None of yah!”

Just as Delroy was about to launch into a verbal attack, Mr Goode re-entered the classroom with a smile on his face like somebody had tickled his fancy.  Steven Callow crept in seconds later nursing his left hand.  His eyes were welling up with tears, but he fought to hold them back.  Form 3A realised he just got caned for something he didn’t do.

         “Right!”  Mr Goode said rubbing his hands in delight.  “Where were we?  Oh yes…”

The bell finally sounded for morning recess, the pupils of form 3A headed for the door.  Delroy wanted to finish his unresolved conversation with H, so he followed him closely through the corridor, down the stairs and into the playground.

         “So what you sayin’ H, we can’t play football then?”  Delroy asked.

         “Oh give it a rest Delroy why don’t yah.  I’ve said what I’ve said, end it now ok.”  H turned to walk off and join the rest of his mates, but Delroy stopped him in his tracks.

         “Ok then H.  Seein’ how yuh feel yuh better than us.  How about us black guys takin’ you white guys on in a football match?”

         “Gedoff!  You’ll get thrashed son!  No way!”

         “So yuh chickenin’ out then H?”  Peter’s smirk irritated H along with Errol’s giggling.

         “What you two laughin’ at?”  H lunged at Errol who took a step back.

         “Hey, what yuh dealing with H?  We just talkin’ man!”  Delroy stepped in and pushed H away.

A crowd gathered around them.  Those who didn’t know what the disagreement was about began to coerce Delroy and H to fight.  The boys then exchanged offensive words until H cracked and swung at Delroy.  The rabble got what they wanted, a full on fight.  Mr Williams, who was on playground duty, burrowed his way through the fanatical mass.  He grabbed Delroy and H by their blazers, lifted them off the ground and placed them on their feet.

         “Who started this?”  He asked in his heavy Welsh accent.

         “He did!”  H threw a punch at Delroy.

         “Yuh Liar!”  Delroy dodged it, sneered and tried to dance around Mr Williams and pop a sneaky shot at H.

         “RIGHT THAT’S ENOUGH YOU TWO!  GO AND STAND OUTSIDE THE STAFF ROOM NOW! – THE REST OF YOU, GO TO YOUR LESSONS; MOVE!”

Delroy and H fixed their disarranged clothes, grabbed their bags and strolled into the building.  Mr Williams made sure the mob made their way peacefully to their respected lessons.

Inside the staff room minutes later, Mr Williams demanded that Delroy and H told him why they were fighting…

         “…So yuh see sir, I challenged H to play a game, blacks verse whites, but he chicken out.”  Delroy concluded.

         “Didn’t chicken out, I said you lot can’t play football!”

         “Shut up Keane!”  Mr Williams snapped.  “From what Delroy has explained to me, it sounds like a perfect way to settle your differences than fighting in the playground or even on the streets…”

         “But sir…”

         “Here’s the deal Keane.  You choose your best eleven players plus a sub by Thursday.  Delroy, you do the same.  On Friday evening after school at the Ritz, I’ll referee the game.  Mr Davies and Mr Ellis will be the linesmen.  If you don’t present your team to me by Thursday lunch time Keane, you will get the cane.”

         “What for sir?”

         “For almost inciting a racial riot in school.  Do I make myself clear Keane?”

         “Yes sir.”

         “Good.  Now the two of you go to your lessons; and on Friday evening, may the best team win.”

During the rest of the week, Delroy told his brethren what happened in his maths class.  They were more than ready to play the football match and prove what H said was wrong.  Delroy chose the best twelve players.  When he produced the agreed team list, they called themselves the Caribbean Stars.  Every evening after school, they strolled to Digby Park in Small Heath and trained hard.  H however, revealed all his cards, arrogantly showing off his A Team players who were ready for battle.  Every day during recess, they displayed their football skills, playing head tennis and how long they could pass the ball to each other without the ball touching the ground.

         “Hey Delroy, d’yah wanna take on the Scorpions now son?”  H asked donning a smug smirk.

         “Scorpions?  What crap name is dat H?”  Delroy chuckled.

         “We gotta sting in our tails for you lot son.  We’re gonna slaughter yah!”

         “Yeh, yeh, we’ll see H.  We’ll see.”

Friday finally arrived.  The Scorpions decided on this day not to display their skills during the morning or afternoon recess, as they realised their scare tactics were not working.  School was peaceful.  No trash talking exchanged, no eyeballing each other, everyone went about their merry way to their lessons.  When the last bell rang at 3.30pm, the Caribbean Stars’ players and a big group of supporters met at the main school entrance as arranged and strolled the short journey down the dual carriage-way road to the Ritz playing fields.

There were no changing-rooms on this recreation ground.  Usually when the school used the playing fields for their games lessons, the boys would change into their kit at school then walk the short distance to the Ritz.  So on this damp, rainy March evening in 1972 at the Ritz playing fields, Delroy and his team braved the elements, changed into their Manchester United kit and began warming up.  As promised, Mr Williams turned up to referee the game along with Mr Ellis and Mr Davies who promised to officiate as linesmen.  While both teams worked up a sweat during their warm ups, it became clear the game meant a lot to both black and white supporters.  They began to sing songs and shouted words of encouragement to their respected teams.

Mr Williams blew his whistle and signaled for the two captains to join him on the half way line.  Delroy and H jogged to the centre circle reluctantly shook hands at which point Mr Williams produced a fifty-pence coin.

         “Heads or tails Delroy?”  He asked.

         “Tails.”

Mr Williams flicked the coin into the air and it landed on the wet grass.  All three of them glared at the coin.

         “Tails it is.  Your team to kick off Delroy.  Do you want your team to stay as they are or do you want to switch ends?”

         “Stay as we are sir.”  Delroy replied.

         “Ok.  We’re going to play forty minutes each half.  Now I want a good game of football you two.  Any high unnecessary tackles, I’m not going to stand for that, you’ll be off, so tell your team gentlemen.  Do we understand each other?”

         “Yes sir.”  Delroy and H said in unison.

         “Good, now let’s play some football and may the best team win.”

The trash talk between both sets of supporters began to flow when Mr Williams blew the whistle to start the game.  Both sets of players threw themselves into hard physical slide tackles, stretching every sinew.  The skillful players hurdled swinging legs and jostled with defenders who were pulling at their shirts.  It was a messy first ten minutes, but Mr Williams allowed the game to flow.  The Scorpions soon realised the Caribbean Stars were not intimidated by them.  Delroy and his brethren passed the ball to feet and moved into space.  They kept the ball on the ground and at times they were running rings around their opponents.

Then came the breakthrough when Peter cleverly dribbled the ball passed two defenders on the left-wing, he crossed the ball towards the goal, which swung away from the Scorpions’ goal keeper and landed plum on Errol’s right foot.  Without changing his stride, Errol’s volley almost ripped a hole in the net.

        “GOAL!!!!”  Yelled the players and their supporters.

H and his crew knew they were in a game.  Almost after they restarted the game, the Scorpions hoisted the ball  into the Caribbean Stars penalty area.  There was confusion as the defenders tried to clear the ball, but H pounced first and guided the ball into the net to equalize, 1 – 1.  They played the rest of the half with the passion which would have graced any cup final.  End to end entertaining football.  At half-time the score was Caribbean Stars 7  Scorpions 2. 

The second half picked up from the first, fast, furious, skillful and entertaining with plenty of near misses.  The Scorpions pulled the game back to 7 -7 and were beginning to gain the upper hand.  Then the Caribbean Stars created a rare good move through midfield half way into the second half.  The Scorpions defended it well and conceded a corner kick.  Delroy jogged over to take it.  He floated a peach of an in-swinger into the Scorpions penalty area and from a running jump; Peter rose above everybody and headed the ball powerfully into the back of the net.  The goalkeeper had no chance of saving it, 8 – 7.  It was the boost the Caribbean Stars needed after their rough patch.  They grew in stature and confidence, as the Scorpions faded and began to run out of ideas.

The Scorpion’s supporters fell silent, while the Caribbean Stars’ supporters cheers grew louder.  The full-time score ended Caribbean Stars 17  Scorpions 7.

There were no incidents after the game.  Both sets of players sportively shook hands before the Caribbean Stars ran off and celebrated their victory.  H and his A team were proven wrong and a mutual respect between black and white pupils grew between them in and out of school.

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The original Caribbean Stars (Sons of Small Heath) who took part in that game: Earl Anderson aka Marcus Simeon; George Farqhuson; Norman Walsh; Everton Francis; David Sadler; Dennis Hamilton; Beresford Callum; Teval Mayers; Petrie Hendrickson; Norman Samuda-Smith; Tony Stephens; Ucal Woodley.  My brethrens, I salute you!

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Since 1972 and those solitary Clyde Best MBE days, black professional football players here in England have grown from strength to strength.

HALL OF FAME ROLE CALL

These are the first black professional football super-stars of the 1970’s who followed in the footsteps of our legend Clyde Best and paved the way for today’s black British football players:

Viv Anderson MBE; Cyrille Regis MBE; Laurie Cunningham; Brendon Batson MBE; John Barnes; Luther Blissett.

We salute you.

THE FOOTBALL MATCH (PART ONE); here…

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*All rights reserved.  No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the writer Norman Samuda-Smith.*

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One Response to “FEATURED STORY”

  1. Cheers, I really love the way you wrote the story… maybe you could come to my site and give me some advice. Thank you in advance.

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