FURD launch comic book to remember first black player at an FA Cup final

English anti-racism charity Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) launched a new comic book to remember the South African-born player Albert Johanneson and his football career, 50 years after he became the first black player to appear in an FA Cup final.

The 24-page comic book 'Albert Johanneson, the first Black Superstar' is the second in the FURD Pioneer series and tells the moving story of the former Leeds United player, who grew up in Apartheid South Africa, where state-sponsored racial discrimination was the crude tool by which everyday society functioned. In early Sixties Britain Albert found a deeply prejudiced country where institutional racism was firmly ingrained.

The book was produced by the Fare founding organisation and Archie Birch from Cape Tow, who have previously worked together on the production of the 'Arthur Wharton, Victorian Sporting Superstar' comic.

Hoping the book will help bring Albert’s story to a wider and younger audience, Fare Chairman and FURD founder Howard Holmes said: "He wasn’t just the only black player on the pitch in those days, he was the only black person in the stadium. Albert was a very humble, very unassuming man, he wasn’t brash in any way, yet he was the first black football star of the modern era in this country. He came before all the players that followed in the 70s.

"Three years after Pele starred in the World Cup, here was a black South African playing for Leeds United.

"Albert was a true pioneer because he was very much on his own, and the idea is that this is accessible to as many people as possible and is available in schools and football clubs to show them what life was like for Albert."

The comic was launched at a special event organised by the English FA and Football Players Association (PFA) at the National Football Museum in Manchester on Thursday 28 May, where Albert's daughter Yvonne presented his football medals for exhibiting at the museum.

Former Blades and Leeds United star Brian Deane welcomed the acknowledgement that the South African also received at last Saturday's FA Cup final: "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."

The comic has received a Creative Catalyst Grant from the SA-UK Seasons 2014 & 2015 programme, a partnership between the Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa and the British Council, with additional support from Fare, the PFA and the South African Football Players Union.

A total of 5000 copies will be distributed in the United Kingdom and South Africa, and it is planned that the comic will act as a catalyst for a similar partnership that will develop the subject into an animated film.

The ‘Albert Johanneson, the first Black Superstar’ comic book is available from howard@furd.org. Telephone 00 44 114 258 7787.

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