Headstone for England’s first Romani player unveiled20 November 2015

UKcharityandFarefounderFootballUnites,RacismDivides(FURD)willunveiltodayaheadstoneinrecognitionofRabbiHowell,England’sfirstRomaniplayerandtheworld’sfirstRomaniinternational.

In May 2014 a campaign was launched by the Sheffield-based charity to collect donations towards funding the cost of a headstone after Steven Kay, the author of ‘The Evergreen in red and white’, a novel about Howell’s final year in Sheffield, discovered the player had been buried in an unmarked grave.

“That was something we needed to put right,” said Steve. “No one who played for England should be buried in an unmarked grave. Rabbi had largely been forgotten and I am thrilled to see his pioneering role now recognised.

Rabbi was a mainstay of Sheffield United and was a vital part of their English First Division winning side in 1898. He then transferred to Liverpool where his experience was also crucial to Tom Watson’s building of their first championship winning side.

Moving to Preston North End at the end of that winning 1901 campaign, Rabbi played for two seasons before badly breaking his leg during a match. He was by this time 36 years old he had been at the top level of English football for 13 years, a remarkable achievement for a player back then.

The campaign to recognise Rabbi’s contributions to English football was kick-started by a pledge of £250 from FURD. Donations from individuals and the intervention of Councillor Peter Kelly of Preston City Council helped it to succeed.

The headstone will be unveiled at a ceremony today (20 November) at 2pm in Preston Old Cemetery.

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