Mini-Exhibition and book launch: ‘HURRY, HURRY ALBERT’

‘Hurry, hurry Albert’ is the nickname affectionately given to the late Albert Johanneson, footballer of note. South African by birth, he became the first black football superstar in the modern English game when he played for Leeds United in the 1960s. The comic book details Albert’s struggles with both apartheid in South Africa and the overt racial prejudice in England at the time. It is also a celebration of Albert’s wonderful footballing achievements.

A reflection on racial prejudice will accompany the comic book launch and exhibition which is scheduled to take place on Human Rights Day, Monday 21 March at 11h00 at the District Six Museum’s Homecoming Centre. The exhibition will be open to the public for three weeks. There is no charge for visiting the exhibition, and requests for guided group tours need to be made ahead of time as it has largely been set up as a self-guided experience.

The comic book has been developed with FURD (Football Unites, Racism Divides)- one on the Museum’s partners based in Sheffield in the UK. It has been illustrated by Cape Town illustrator, Archie Birch and first formed part of our 2010 exhibition on Football and racism.

It is hoped that this exhibition will serve as a catalyst for discussions about matters of racial and other prejudices, and will form part of the Museum’s ongoing Public Education Programmes.

Human Rights Day – 21 March – was officially declared a public holiday in 1994 following the inauguration of former president Nelson Mandela. This national public holiday is both a stark reminder of the tragic Sharpeville massacre and a celebration of South Africa’s constitution, forged on the basis of respecting human rights for all.

Read More: SA History Online

Brief Background to the Comic Book:
On Saturday 1st May 1965, Albert Louis Johanneson became the first black footballer to appear in an English FA Cup Final as Leeds United met Liverpool. Albert was cheered in anticipation by Leeds fans, but also clearly audible were the widespread boos reserved for England’s first Black Superstar.

There were virtually no black professionals in England when, in January 1961, the 20 year old from Germiston township in Johannesburg pulled up his collar against the icy blast as his train pulled into Leeds station.

Albert had grown up in Apartheid South Africa; sadly he found early Sixties Britain a deeply prejudiced country where institutional racism was firmly ingrained.

Fortunately for Albert, on the field with Leeds, Jack Charlton and Billy Bremner took it upon themselves to become the winger’s minders, a sort of early-day anti-racists, defending. Albert against the racist actions of opposition players, fans and club officials.

When new manager Don Revie made Albert his first signing he signalled his determination that lowly Division 2 Leeds were about to build an international reputation. The Real Madrid-style kit soon followed, and as season 1964-5 drew to a close the Yorkshire team were favourites to achieve the League and Cup double. Albert was the exhilarating star of the team, scoring ten times from the left wing that season; but they faltered at the final hurdle, finishing runners-up in both league (to Man Utd) and in the Cup, losing 2-1 to Liverpool.

Now Sheffield-based Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) and illustrator Archie Birch from Cape Town have joined forces to publish a 24-page comic book telling Albert’s inspirational,yet sadly poignant story. The partnership project has built on the success of a previous comic collaboration ‘Arthur Wharton, Victorian Sporting Superstar’ between Birch and Howard Holmes, founder of FURD, an anti-racist education project set up in Sheffield in 1996.

Former Leeds and Sheffield United star Brian Deane has welcomed the acknowledgement that Albert received at the 2015 FA Cup Final, which marked the 50th Anniversary of Albert’s appearance at Wembley. Deane commented:

‘As young, football-crazy lads growing up in Chapeltown, Leeds, in the early 1970s, Albert Johanneson was a name that we were all familiar with. Although his career was over, we knew he had been a great player for Leeds United and an inspiration for the next generation of black footballing talent in the city.

He was a true pioneer, and one can only imagine how hard it must have been for Albert as the only black person in the stadium, never mind just on the pitch, in an age when there was open hostility against people purely because of the colour of their skin.

I know he received some terrible stick from opposing fans, but he persevered and became a hero both to the Leeds supporters and the black community in the city and beyond’.

Manchester City talisman Yaya Toure has also warmly backed the Johanneson comic, tweeting a pic of himself reading it and messaging:

‘Great to see FURD producing resources to raise awareness of African pioneers like Albert Johanneson’

The comic has received backing from the SA-UK Seasons 2014-15 programme, a partnership between the British Council and the South African government’s department of Arts and Culture, with additional support from the Fare Network and Professional Footballers Association in the UK, District Six Museum and the South African Football Players Union. 2500 copies each are being distributed in both the United Kingdom and South Africa, and it is hoped that the comic will act as a catalyst for a similar partnership that will develop the subject into an animated film.

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