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Kammy autobiography recalls his work with Show Racism the Red Card

Well-loved footballer, commentator and presenter, Chris Kamara, has recently released his autobiography ‘Kammy: My Unbelievable Life’. A supporter of the Show Racism the Red Card campaign since its formative years, Kammy talks about how he became involved with SRtRC and some of the great work he has done with the charity.

Below is an excerpt from chapter 2 of the book, which Kammy has kindly given us permission to share.

 

Chapter 2, In My Defence

Two decades after that Wetherby pub ban and too many years to count since abuse was hurled at me outside Elland Road, I got involved with Show Racism the Red Card. The charity was established that year thanks to then Newcastle Keeper Shaka Hislop, who’d recently started to play for the club, when stopped for petrol near St James’s Park with his pregnant wife Desha. Four youths shouted racist abuse at him as he paid, but when one of them recognised him, they went over to ask for his autograph. The experience had a profound effect on Shaka, who realised the power of football to educate young people. The incident also coincided with a letter sent to Newcastle United players from founder Ged Grebby on behalf of an organisation called Youth Against Racism in Europe. Shaka was the only player to reply and sent a £50 cheque and a letter outlining his idea to educate kids. Ged teamed up with his fellow Newcastle fan and activist Kevin Miles to form Show Racism the Red Card, along with Shaka and Viv Anderson, who was then Bryan Robson’s assistant at Middlesbrough, and the first black man to play a full international for England.

They started with the big three clubs in the north-east – Newcastle, Sunderland and my hometown Middlesbrough – talking to schoolkids around that football-made region. This was the era of Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers’, so when Ged and Shaka brought Newcastle players like Les Ferdinand to the schools, the kids went crazy. And they listened. I was Bradford City manager at the time, and Ged contacted me and asked if they could bring their workshops to the club.  I of course welcome them with open arms and soon started doing a few talks myself around the primary schools in West Yorkshire. It was never heavy stuff, simply the truth about my experiences over the years.

The aim of Show Racism the Red Card is to educate people at a young age and teach them about the effects of racism and how to speak out. This is hugely important. Anti-racism must also be taught at home, but by educating children in schools we can encourage that age group to pass on their knowledge to their elders, some of whom, unfortunately either remain ignorant or part of the problem. It’s about teaching kids when they’re young, because when they’re older it’s harder to break down barriers. Kids soak up information so well at a young age – that’s the time to guide and teach them.

Kids don’t see colour. I’m a different colour to my sons Ben and Jack, but to their kids, my grandkids, I’m just Grandad. When they paint pictures of me, they paint me brown, because that’s what I am.  I’m not different – I’m Grandad.  No one is born a racist, so advising young people what is right and wrong gives them a fantastic chance to be themselves and say ‘That’s not right’ or, ‘I don’t want to be part of that, and I am going to walk away’.  Show Racism the Red Card has made a huge difference over it’s twenty-five years plus years, but there is still, sadly, much work to do.

When the charity launched a new magazine at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium in October 1996, a small group of players and mangers got involved, and only a handful of media turned up for the press conference.  But slowly, over time, interest in the organisation and it’s cause increased hugely.  In fact, it wasn’t long before Show Racism the Red Card was attracting a number of high-profile players as supporters.  In 1996, as well as signing up Shaka, Viv and me, Peter Reid, Kevin Keegan, John Beresford, Les Ferdinand, Gary Bennett, David Kelly, Daiusz Kubicki, Curtis Fleming and Glenn Hoddle all came on board. The following year, another sixty high profile managers and players signed up, including Bryan Robson, Paul Merson, Kenny Dalglish, Eric Cantona, Sol Campbell, Paul Ince, David Ginola, Dennis Bergkamp and John Barnes. Today, of course I’m glad to say virtually every player and every club supports the campaign.

When I got the sack from Stoke City, of which more later, Ged and his assistant Gavin invited me to join them on my first trip with the charity – around the schools of Ireland – and I became a patron of the organisation later that year. There just the three of us with a box of leaflets driving round Ireland in a car back then. Today the charity has grown to more than forty staff, with offices in Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Southern, and they have educated more than one million kids in their workshops since 1996. In 2022, 440,000 took part in the annual Wear Red Day, which shows the charity has never been more relevant and supported. I’ve done a number of events over the years and contributed to debates in parliamentary committees.  I’ve even given a speech at Oxford University.

I was also among 170 footballers, managers, rugby players, basketball players, celebrities and dignitaries invited by the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown to a garden party at Number 10 on behalf of Show Racism the Red Card.  Chelsea manager Avran Grant also turned up, even though it was the week of his team’s Champions League final with Manchester United in Moscow.  Reading chairman John Madejski was there to support Shaka just a day after his team had been relegated from the Premier League, and the big keeper was hobbling around the garden on crutches after breaking his ankle a few weeks earlier. I ken the PM was a Raith Rovers fan, so when I was introduced, I made sure to quiz him about his team, who were flying high in the Scottish Second Division at the time (I’d done my homework). But I wasn’t the only one. Gordon said he was a huge fan of mine and had followed my football and management career and watched me on Soccer Saturday. Before I knew it, he was leading me back onto Number 10 and taking me on a person tour of the building, including the famous staircase and the pictures of the former prime ministers on the wall. If I couldn’t believe it I am not sure many of the other guests could either.

In early 2023, I went along to a Show Racism the Red Card event at Huddersfield Town’s John Smith’s Stadium just after the charity had engaged more than one million people in their anti-racism educational programme since 1996.  It’s a fantastic achievement. It wasn’t only me and Ged this time. John Beresford came along as a fellow patron.  Bez was with Shaka for the charity’s first presentation at a school in Newcastle had has been awarded an MBE for his services to anti-racism. And, like me, Bez has watched up close the growth of the charity from those early days, and how much it has become an integral part of the game and seen the difference it has made. I gave a little talk with Bez, and we were joined by former Town forward Frazier Campbell, and academy players Tom Iorpenda, Cian Philpott and Fope Deru, for a question-and-answer session. Frazier’s from Lowerhouses, Huddersfield, and he certainly brightened up the day for the kids from Field Lane Junior Infant and Nursery in Batley, and Moldgreen Community Primary School, Huddersfield. We all did our best and simply hoped they got the message.  The workshops we presented to clubs in the late 1990s were a first for the Football League, and we only had a few magazines, stickers, leaflets and CD-ROMs. There are now videos with dozens of world and Premier League stars backing the campaign – a million miles away from those early days and that trip to Ireland.

When I go into schools, I tell the kids about the racism I’ve suffered and say to them that I hope they will never have to go through what I went through growing up and playing football.  The N-word was prevalent when and where I grew up, and through my football career.  But, like when Shaka was recognized by his abusers, I haven’t heard it since I started going on TV and ‘Kammy’ character evolved.  Of course it is still happening, and kids should not have to put up with racist abuse today. It has certainly improved, though. When I was at school, people said racist things to your face and we all accepted it – nowadays they hide behind social media accounts.

 

A great read, Kammy reveals all in this funny and moving autobiography. Get your copy here

‘Everyone loves Kammy . . . Full of humour and endless blunders’ – The Times

‘What a man, what a life, what a story, and what a great read’ – Paddy McGuinness

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