Football isn’t just black and white…sometimes it’s red or blue or yellow

Viv Anderson races past Czech defender Koloman during his England debut.
Viv Anderson races past Czech defender Koloman during his England debut.

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

At any England match many of the fans will be wearing shirts in the national colours. It identifies them as supporters of our nation’s football team and shows solidarity with the players on the pitch. Some might even wish they were one of the eleven. Others might affirm in good old Anglo-Saxon that they could do better than those representing their country!

Yet whatever the result, win, lose or draw, white is the colour – or at least that was the case until 29 November 1978 when England played the former Czechoslovakia, in a friendly.

That night 22-year-old Viv Anderson, a defender with Nottingham Forest, trotted out to take his place in the England back four. Nothing remarkable about that you might think. You’d be wrong.

When Anderson pulled on the white shirt of England and strode out onto the Wembley turf as England’s first black full international, he trod a path for others to follow.

By selecting Anderson, national team manager Ron Greenwood broke down any remaining barriers to black players representing their country.

And to cap a game changing night the host’s ran out 1–0 winners in front of 92,000 fans.

With so many black players gracing our game for club and country, Viv Anderson’s inclusion in the England team might not seem such a big deal for our younger readers. That wasn’t always the case back then which is why his elevation was such a defining moment in our national sport.

Seventy-six black players (up until November 2014) have represented England at full international level since 1978, but that number is certain to increase.

Down the years England have worn shirts of varying colours: red, white, blue and yellow. Today the squad also varies in colour and that can only be good for the game and for our chances in future tournaments. As the old adage states: ‘if you’re good enough that’s all that should matter.’


Anderson was the 936th player to represent England
Anderson was the 936th player to represent England


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