Black footballers from Chelsea’s past and present have been at the forefront of an education project undertaken by our Academy players during this year’s Black History Month.
Black History Month should serve as a catalyst to empower us all to continue to learn, stand in solidarity against racism and to play an active part in creating a game and environment that is inclusive to all. That’s no different for staff and players at the Chelsea Academy.
Alfie Butwell is Chelsea Foundation’s education operations officer and part of his role includes delivering workshops in colleges and schools on important topics such as identity and culture, equality and black history. Recently, some of our Academy players got involved in an interactive session to gain a greater understanding of what this unique month means.
Integral figures in black history such as Mary Seacole, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr were discussed as being well-known civil rights activists who took a stand against racial discrimination in the past.
Read: England's 100 players of black heritage - the Chelsea connections
Meanwhile more modern, relatable figures such as presenters Maya Jama and Ade Adepitan, boxing champion Nicola Adams OBE, and YouTube stars Yung Filly & Chunkz were highlighted for changing the way young people of black origin are viewed in the public eye in the present day.
The session was interactive and encouraged discussion among our youngsters, who were asked about their role models. Answers ranged from parents for their unmeasured dedication to their son’s lives, to Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford MBE for his well-documented work over the lockdown period to help feed less fortunate children in his community, which sparked more conversation about some other historic black footballers who have represented Chelsea.
A host of black footballers have represented the men’s and women’s teams since Paul Canoville became the first black player to represent the Blues back in 1982.
Since then heroic figures such as Didier Drogba, Ruud Gullit, Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbank, Eniola Aluko, Eddie Newton, Ashley Cole and Drew Spence, as well as present day stars such as Fikayo Tomori, Reece James, Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, N’Golo Kante and Kurt Zouma are some of the players following in Canoville’s footsteps, creating more history in the famous Chelsea blue and white.
Many of today's players have themselves graduated through the Chelsea Academy pathway. Their achievements have been covered in the Academy’s virtual education session, which set an exciting and rewarding task for the younger age groups. There have been 106 players of black origin to represent Chelsea at a professional level and the boys were split into groups and tasked with creating a profile for their assigned player.
They had to research some specific information about the player such as their shirt number, Chelsea goals and appearances, place and date of birth, before having to write a creative report about a match in the player’s career. The final task was to design and create an image which represented a special moment in the player’s career.
The winning group will have their work illustrated and published to feature in a book on black history called ‘Who We Are’, which will be housed in our club museum at Stamford Bridge.
‘Black History Month provides us with the opportunity to carve out time to explore, appreciate and celebrate black history,’ said Safeguarding Manager Dani Taylor.
‘In part, Black History Month enables us to learn about the incredible contributions of black people to science, the arts, politics and sport, which is so relevant to the lives of everyone at the Academy.'
Read: Celebrating Black History Month