Decades of progress since Hodgson played in South Africa

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Decades of progress since Hodgson played in South Africa

By Morgan Phillips

Thursday May 3, 2012

Above: Paul Parker playing for Fulham FC

It didn't take long. In his first press conference after accepting the England job Roy Hodgson had to deal with a forgotten incident in 1973-74 when he chose to play in racially segregated South Africa. He answered simply that he was a young man desperate to play professional football and politically ignorant.

Channel Four News also referred to Jimmy Hill, once an opponent of apartheid, who wanted to lead an All Star tour of South Africa in 1982. Of course neither of these could compare with the crassness of Fulham chairman Tommy Trinder presenting a charity concert for the South African police soon after the Sharpeville massacre.

These incidents happened 30-50 years ago and perhaps serve only to reassure us that we have progressed since then. 'Black Lions' by Rodney Hinds (Sportsbooks 2006) shows how long it has taken for black players to be treated on an equal basis in this country, considering that Andrew Watson from (British) Guyana played for Scotland in March 1881. The following year he represented London Swifts in the FA Cup and than won a place in the Corinthian FC. It would be great to claim Andrew for west London but the Corinthians had not yet chosen Queens Club as their base.

British fans saw very few non-white players in the next 65 years. Hinds mentions the Egyptian 'Heggy' Hegazi, who appeared once for Fulham in 1911. His name often crops up because like Pavel Pogrebnyak he scored on his debut. Unfortunately Dulwich Hamlet insisted that he was committed to them and he never appeared at the Cottage again.

Oscar Drew in the Fulham Times was 'glad of his departure because I am not an admirer of gentlemen of colour mingling too freely with English people'. Oscar was always boasting of his travels abroad but they seem to left him narrow-minded. Or was this sour grapes because Hegazi was content to play for Dulwich rather than Fulham?

Another name in Hinds's book is Lindy Delaphena, a Jamaican who joined Portsmouth in 1948 and played for Middlesbrough in the 1950s. Lindy, an ex-serviceman, showed that black footballers were not just skilled, but could also take and dish out the rough stuff. This made him a love/hate figure on his visits to the Cottage, and doubless most other grounds in the country.

I don't recall Lindy being abused for his colour, and he was spared the disgusting racist chants of the 70s and 80s. Fulham's crowds had dwindled by then and the bigoted minority rarely made themselves heard. That was to our credit, but the club should have done more to encourage black players prior to the signing of Paul Parker in 1980.

As I said, we have progressed vastly since then. The all-knowing Oscar Drew could never have dreamt that Fulham one day would be owned by and heavily dependent upon an Egyptian, nor that one of our finest managers would be a 'gentleman of colour' Jean Tigana.

Was Roy Hodgson our best manager? I never quite bought into that but he, like Alec Stock, did take the club to a major cup final, and if he does the same for England a lot of his critics are going to look very foolish.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

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