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Fundraising campaign for Cunningham statue in Leyton begins

PUBLISHED: 16:00 08 March 2016

Laurie Cunningham faces the camera when part of Leyton Orient's squad (S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport).

Laurie Cunningham faces the camera when part of Leyton Orient's squad (S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport).

S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

Leyton Orient and Kick It Out team up to back Waltham Forest Council's plans to raise awareness of Laurie Cunningham's story

Residents, businesses and football fans from around the world are being called upon to be part of Laurie Cunningham’s legacy by raising money to build a statue in Leyton to celebrate his achievements.

The fundraising campaign was officially launched yesterday (Monday) and the former Real Madrid star would have celebrated his 60th birthday today.

With support from Leyton Orient and football’s equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out, Waltham Forest Council is spearheading the campaign to raise awareness and funds to remember Cunningham - one of the first professional black footballers to play for England.

He started his career in Waltham Forest with Orient and to celebrate his legacy in opening up the game of football to people of all backgrounds, Waltham Forest Council will erect a statue in his honour in Coronation Gardens near the stadium where he first made his mark on the beautiful game.

Starting out with the O’s in 1974, Cunningham played at a time when racism was prevalent, but his success with teams such as West Bromwich Albion and Real Madrid paved the way for other black athletes across the country.

He also earned six caps for England and, along with winning the double with Real Madrid, helped Wimbledon to victory over Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final.

Tragically, Cunningham was killed in a car accident in Madrid in 1989 at the age of just 33.

Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, has committed to pay half the costs towards the statue.

He said: “Laurie made a huge impact on the footballing world at a time when racism was rife in the game. He holds a special place in the heart of Orient fans and local residents alike.

“We want a permanent tribute to the man and his achievements, which will also act as a celebration of how well people from all different backgrounds get along in this borough.”

Roisin Wood, Kick It Out’s Director, added: “Laurie was a ground-breaking footballer. The disgraceful discrimination he, and others, faced was a stain on football in the 1970s and 1980s.

“But it’s important to recognise his impact and the inspiration he would have given to young people watching the game at that time.

“Kick It Out is fully behind a statue for someone who made such an impression on the game and it will drive awareness about his story for young people growing up in the local area.”

Orient’s chief executive Alessandro Angelieri said: “The club are delighted that Waltham Forest Council, in association with Kick It Out, will celebrate the legacy of Laurie with a bronze statue in Coronation Gardens.

“His success with the club, and throughout his career in times where racism was commonplace in football, is an example to many and it is a fitting tribute to have someone of his stature remembered in this way so close to where his career began.”

As well as raising funds for the new Leyton landmark, the year-long campaign will promote his important legacy of inclusion and diversity through community events.

The statue is set to cost just over £100,000 and together with its partners the Council is looking to raise up to £50,000. If you would like to make a donation, visit www.walthamforest.gov.uk/laurieslegacy.

Anyone who donates over £20 will have their name printed in the special edition of Waltham Forest News that ties in with the unveiling of the statue.

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