If you want to capture boys’ attention, talk football (at least in Europe). Paul Canoville, who helped break the color barrier in British soccer spoke at the International School of Geneva about racism in sport to tie in with United Nations Day of Tolerance Nov. 17, 2010 and March 21st International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
« Mama said, ‘get an education ! » Canoville said in a high pitched voice with a Caribbean accident, wiggling his hips imitating his mama.
« Don’t worry Mama, football gonna take care of me. » said the first black man to play for Chelsea in 1981, who still remembers that pain of racial abuse when even his own fans called him animal names.
« My Mama, from a poor Caribbean family, came to England alone and dreamed of becoming a nurse, but never had the chance to become educated. She worked hard all her life. She didn’t care about football ; she wanted me to go to school.»
When Canoville’s career ended to a knee injury at age 25, no one took care of him, especially not football. After a downward spiral of drug addiction, street life and jail time, he turned his life around. His autobiography, Black and Blue received the best British sport book award in 2009.
After Canoville’s visit to our campus, three of my freshman students, a a tall dark-haired Italian basketball player, a blond blue-eyed Austrian footballer, and a young Swiss tennis man wrote him this letter.
Dear Mr. Canoville
Thank you for coming to tell us a story that has the power to make people change their way of thinking about racism. In school we always learn about the history of racism, what it is about, what it provokes, but we have never had a witness talk to us about his experiences. It is a privilege that students will cherish. Most kids are sports fans, and many would love to play professional football later in life. The opportunity to hear a famous footballer sharing important views so freely is fantastic. It has even more of an impact when you are funny. When you tell your life altering stories and describe the appalling behavior you confronted, you showcased your great sense of humor and positive way of seeing things. A person will always face challenging times, but if you fight for what you believe in, no matter how unfair things seem to be, you can do just about anything. You taught us this. We would love for you to come back and pass your experiences and knowledge on to other generations of students.
Canoville’s final words to our students were “Always have a back up plan. Get an education. And listen to mama. Mama knows best!”
Here’s to all the mamas around the world, making sacrifices everyday, giving children a better chance through the opportunity of education.
This is a heartwarming story and a good reminder for all of us that everyone is fighting some battle and also, one must never give up hope. This young man is truly an inspiration and it was nice to see the students appreciated his message.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.
Thanks Kathy. Hope the inspiration will carry over into our virtual class! ha
After a challenging day, I had several tasks to do at the computer. I saw this email and thought, “I will read this blog first; it will help to inspire me and help me to center myself.” I was right. Thanks, Pat.
“…but if you fight for what you believe in, no matter how unfair things seem to be, you can do just about anything”
That only seems to be the case because you only hear about the success stories. It’s an unfair cliche, making everyone who didn’t make it responsible for their own misfortune.
Fighting for what you believe in is a necessary, but not always sufficient condition.
Yes so true, Laurent…but this letter was written by idealistic 14-year-olds filled with dreams, even though we see reality differently as jaded adults.
Got it. Thanks. T O P
Very inspiring Pat, would love to review the book!
Thanks Clara, appreciate your authentic support.
bring this book back over this summer!
Its a “must read!” our Mama sure knows best.