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First black Chelsea player Paul Canoville tells Bow schoolchildren to speak out about racism

PUBLISHED: 13:25 28 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:52 28 January 2019

Paul Canoville at St Agnes Catholic Primary School. Picture: PAUL CANOVILLE

Paul Canoville at St Agnes Catholic Primary School. Picture: PAUL CANOVILLE

Archant

The first black footballer for Chelsea who was targeted for abuse by the club’s fans has told schoolchildren in Bow to call racism out.

When Paul Canoville walked onto the pitch for the first time with the Blues at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace in April 1982 his own club’s fans hurled racist abuse against him.

But it wasn’t the first time he had to face racism. As a child he would dodge insults about the colour of his skin going to and from school.

That’s why Canoville visits schools to teach youngsters about the importance of kicking out racism and bullying.

“It was frightening when I was a child going home after school. But I didn’t tell anybody. I say to children now, ‘Tell your parents. Tell your teachers.’ Because something can be done about it,” Canoville said.

Chelsea's Paul Canoville (r) gets away from Arsenal's Brian Talbot (l). Picture: ALPHA/EMPICSChelsea's Paul Canoville (r) gets away from Arsenal's Brian Talbot (l). Picture: ALPHA/EMPICS

That’s one lesson Key Stage One and Two pupils learned when the 56-year-old spoke at St Agnes Catholic Primary School in Rainhill Way on Thursday.

“It was great. It went down very well. I shared with them my life story. How I didn’t take education seriously when I was growing up. I told them they should work hard and pursue their dreams,” he said.

“I got a great reaction from the children. It was unbelievable. They listened in complete silence.”

After Chelsea, Canoville was signed to Reading but in 1987 a serious knee injury forced him to retire from the professional game.

Former Chelsea player, Paul Canoville. Picture: PA ARCHIVE IMAGESFormer Chelsea player, Paul Canoville. Picture: PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

Later in life he worked as a driver for disabled children before joining a school as a teaching assistant.

But after friends told him he should share his story, he set up his own charity – the Paul Canoville Foundation – in May 2015 to help youngsters overcome adversity.

That’s one thing the father of ten knows a lot about after beating cancer three times.

On how racism has changed since he was at school, Canoville said: “There’s a lot more being done to tackle it now.

Paul Canoville at St Agnes Catholic Primary School. Picture: PAUL CANOVILLEPaul Canoville at St Agnes Catholic Primary School. Picture: PAUL CANOVILLE

“Nothing was really done about it when I was a child. We wouldn’t open up to parents.

“Now you can do something.”

For more information about the Foundation and arrange a school visit go to paulcanovillefoundation.com/index.html

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