RACISM SHOWN RED CARD AT THE BRIDGE

October is Black History Month throughout the country and to celebrate its start, Chelsea Football Club hosted a special event aimed at engaging local school children in the anti-racism debate.

Our own black history was well-represented at Stamford Bridge for the afternoon occasion with Paul Canoville (pictured above, second from left), the first black player to make a Chelsea debut and Ken Monkou (pictured above, far left), the first player to win Chelsea Player of the Year among the contributors.

Run in conjunction with Chelsea's Education Department and the long-running Show Racism the Red Card campaign, the youngsters were able to question a panel that also included Lorrie Fair (pictured above, far right), Chelsea ambassador and former Women's World Cup winner, David McDermott from the Football Foundation, Ged Grebby, founder of Show Racism the Red Card and Leroy Rosenoir (pictured above, second from right), the former Fulham and West Ham striker who was the principal speaker at the event.

As well as recounting tales of abuse that he and other players had endured in their playing days, Rosenior, who devotes much time to the campaign, told the kids a tale from his own son's childhood.

'Have you heard of my son Liam. He's a footballer for Reading and once he asked me when he was at school, should I be in the black gang or should I be in the white gang, because he is of mixed parentage.

'I said what you do is just go and be with your mates. Be friends with the people you like, it doesn't matter if they are white or black, and he has done that ever since - and that is really important.

'What is also important is young people spreading the message around,' he added.

'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. Does anyone think that's true? Because I don't.

'All adults will tell you it's not when somebody hit them that they remember, it is when someone said something really nasty.'

He highlighted how such abuse can escalate into incidents such as the murder of student Anthony Walker in Liverpool three years ago.

And before the question and answer session began, the children were given the chance to watch Show Racism the Red Card's new DVD, presented by Gary Lineker and featuring Anthony Walker's sister Dominque plus a host of top footballers discussing racism.

It also highlighted the stand made by Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o in considering walking off the pitch last season in response to racist crowd behaviour, a gesture that prompted all Spanish games to delay kick-off by five minutes one weekend in a show of support.

However the campaign is not just about football as Grebby explained:

'Football does a lot more to fight racism than society does. We are trying to use football to tackle racism in society, not just tackle racism in football.

'Footballers are fantastic role models and that is what our campaign is all about. It is about the impact that it can have in schools and society.'

The afternoon began with a quiz, in which the children showed an impressive knowledge of the nationalities of the Chelsea squad and some were more accurate in naming the date Paul Canoville made his Chelsea debut than the player was!

'When I was younger and receiving racial abuse, we didn't have anyone to talk to and I let the anger out to the wrong people,' Canoville (pictured below) later told the audience.

Paul Canoville

'If you are being racially abused, don't keep it in, tell an adult.

'It's an offence and police can do something about it and that person will be in trouble. Don't keep it to yourself, it builds up anger and it is not good to carry that with you.'

Lorrie Fair spoke of her own experiences.

'I have been all over the world and I have visited every single continent except Antarctica. Racism can be just as bad anywhere.

'Football is played by so many races, coming together in one place, that people can be united by it.

'My dad was white and my mum Chinese and I've been called all sorts of names - black, Mexican - in a very negative way - and even though I was other races, it hurt me because of the way it was said.

'Maybe I should have said at the time that it was wrong. It is important to say that is not right, what you did to my friend. You guys know what is right and what is not right.'

The schools involved were Servite RC Primary from Fulham Road and St. Barnabas and St. Philip C of E School from Earl's Court.

Chelsea's annual Kick Racism out of Football match will be against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on 26 October.

Click here to find out more about Show Racism the Red Card.