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Steve Stacey, the first African American professional soccer player in the UK, is returning to Britain during September and October as part of a series of events promoting his new autobiography, The Colour of Football.
Stacey was born in 1944 in Bristol, England. At the time his father, a black American GI, wasn't able to marry his white English mother, and so returned to the States, with Stacey remaining in the UK with his mom. Growing up was tough, but Stacey recalls that captaining a street team made him realize that color wasn't important when it came to soccer. "No matter what had happened in the past, name-calling, being ignored, I never felt I was less worthy than anyone else on the street again, ever ... I have considered this often on my journey. With all the glamour of a professional football career, perhaps being captain of the street team was the most important and crucial appointment of my whole life ... As I grew up, all my friends and those I played football with were white. As I turned professional, I was admired for my skill with the ball, not for the colour of my skin ... Today, teams are brimming with players of different nationalities and colour, and that is the way it should be. But I like to think that, in some small way, I was part of the beginning."
Stacey started his career at Bristol City Football Club, before joining Wrexham in Wales. A stint at Ipswich came next, before a return to Bristol City, which was followed by tenures at Exeter Football Club and Bath City. He emigrated with his wife, Dorothy, and two children to Australia in 1974, where he continued to play football whilst also adding coaching to his skillset.
At nearly 40 years of age, Steve managed to track down his father in the US. The experience opened his eyes to the suffering of black communities in the States, including Kemper County, where his father was born and raised, and the infamous "killing fields" for African Americans. His book, The Colour of Football, is Steve's story - growing up, playing football, and discovering his ancestral roots.
Discussing the upcoming book launch, Gordon Taylor OBE, Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, said that "People of all backgrounds, races, religions and cultures can come together through football ... Steve Stacey is not one of the big stars. But as the son of a black American GI and a white English woman, he was a pioneer. Professional football is all about the Steve Staceys of this world ... The PFA is proud to have helped Steve tell his story. It is one that will resonate with football lovers everywhere and is a great insight into what it was like to be a professional footballer in Steve’s time."
Steve Stacey's book, The Colour of Football, will be available to buy online, or from Bristol's Ashton Gate Stadium, from September 6. During his trip to the UK, Stacey will speak at local schools near Bristol, including Fairfield High School which he attended as a child. He is also speaking in the Sports Bar at Ashton Gate, Bristol, on Friday September 6, at 6pm, to launch his book. Steve will also be taking part in events marking Black History Month, including a lecture at Bristol's M Shed on October 9, at 6pm, titled Ancestral Roots and Football Boots.
To find out more details on The Colour of Football, check out www.bristolbooks.org.