Chelsea's first black star Paul Canoville "I help young to tackle racism"
Chelsea’s first black player is using his experiences of battling racism, a drugs addiction and cancer to mentor disadvantaged young Londoners.
Paul Canoville, a winger at Stamford Bridge between 1981 and 1986, has been recruited as an ambassador for the Guy Mascolo Football Charity, which helps young people in deprived areas of the capital.
Mr Canoville suffered sustained racist abuse during his playing career, much of it from Chelsea’s own fans. He retired aged 25 with a dislocated right knee and became addicted to drugs, from which he has been free for more than a decade. The 53-year-old, who has also had three bouts of cancer, said: “I share my story, not just from football, but from childhood, how difficult it was and the importance of education to get where they want to go.”
Mr Canoville said he tells teenage footballers the importance of a “plan B” so that those who cannot achieve their dreams on the pitch can secure a job or go into higher education.
He added: “I wasn’t comfortable going to school. I didn’t think education was that important, until now.
“I realised because I got injured at an early age that I didn’t have anything to fall back to. I don’t want them to go through that.”
As well as teaching life skills he also helps aspiring managers studying for FA coaching badges at Cobham United’s ground.
Mr Canoville, who started his career with Hillingdon Borough in 1979 aged 17, said of the racism he suffered: “For me as a young boy, whose dream was to become a professional footballer, it was at times scary. After some games I wouldn’t go home straight away, I’d wait around for three hours until it had calmed down.
“We didn’t have anybody to talk to. Now because of groups like Kick It Out you don’t have to take it, you can complain, tell the boss.”
He also told how his family struggled financially to support him and he was forced to buy boots at Woolworths.
The Guy Mascolo Football Charity runs football activities and life skills workshops on subjects including gangs, racism, knife crime and sexual bullying for young people in Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea.
Its chief executive Allan Hogg said: “We are privileged that Paul will be working with us and the local youth to establish our community projects in deprived areas of south-west London.”
From Evening Standard