‘Maybe we are alone’: Jude Bellingham questions whether authorities ‘care’ about racist abuse directed at Black footballers
The former England and Manchester United striker, who died this month, is remembered for his fightback from a lifetime of racism as a Black player.
A man who has never won a medal for England, Bellingham has seen his career stunted in death because of his race. His rise from obscurity in the 1960s to the world game has come at a steep price.
In 1978 football was not just a matter of choice for a Black man in England. It was a form of liberation, an engine of anti-racist protest.
There were the riots and the demonstrations with as many as 30,000 people gathering outside Old Trafford to support the national team, the England players in black scarves, but, it was an even more powerful force.
“You could go on long walks in London without being questioned when you go out at night,” Bellingham, who was born in England but grew up in Liberia, would later say on the BBC’s “The World this Weekend” programme. “The biggest thing of it was when I came to Manchester United, they were going into a team meeting and there was a little man who came up to me and said, ‘You can get this one here.’ When I went to a game, there were people standing in my direction. They would be standing in the street. You look around and you can’t really tell what colour anybody is. I’d have to ask them, what country are you from? Are you from Manchester? What are your names? I can never forget that. When I got back to England I told my dad, ‘I can’t go back to Liberia with these people talking to me.'”
In Britain, racism was a form of humiliation for Blacks. And the experience of being talked down to by the English public was the one thing that kept Bellingham from quitting.
He was offered a chance to play for England and England had a proud Black heritage going back to the 14th century, when a Black slave named Christopher Columbus, the first such African in Europe, was sold to an English landowner. England, the UK and Commonwealth were united by the Blackness