Jack Leslie: Statue campaign launched for pioneering Black footballer

The Jack Leslie campaign hopes to raise £ 100,000 ($ 124,000) for a statue in honor of Leslie, a striker for the English club Plymouth Argyle in the 1920s and 1930s. Former English international Gary Lineker described the story from Leslie as extraordinary.

Leslie was chosen to play for England in 1925, according to the National Football Museum, but the order was later canceled.

“They [the selection committee] I must have forgotten that I was a boy of color, “said Leslie years after the incident.

“There was a little uproar in the newspapers. The people of the city [Plymouth] were very angry. Nobody ever said official to me like that but that had to be the reason; my mom was english but my dad was black like “the ace of spades”.

“There was no other reason to take off my cap.”

Leslie has played more than 400 times for Plymouth Argyle.

If he had played internationally, Leslie, who had Jamaican ancestry, would have been the first black footballer in England.

Instead, it was Viv Anderson who won the title in 1978 – more than half a century after Leslie was in line to make her debut.

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Leslie died in 1988 after scoring 137 goals in 401 appearances for Argyle, who has just been promoted to the third level of English football, between 1924 and 1931.

The statue’s construction campaign has so far raised more than £ 25,000 ($ 31,000) and is supported by the English Football Association and Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport.

“Jack Leslie should have been the first black player to appear in an English jersey but was dropped once selected due to the color of his skin,” Pollard wrote on Twitter.

The Plymouth Argyle team poses for a photo during the 1927-8 season. Leslie is second from the right in the front row.

“I support the campaign for a statue in #plymouth to remember one of the best players at @ Only1Argyle.”

The campaign hopes to place a statue outside of Home Park, the main stadium of Plymouth Argyle. If the fundraising goal is exceeded, an educational element will be added to the campaign.

“Stories like this are incredibly sad,” said FA president Greg Clarke in a statement.

“Discrimination in the game, in any form and at any time, is unacceptable. We must always remember pioneers like Jack Leslie and be thankful that football is in a very different place today.

“We are very pleased to support this campaign which we hope will ensure that Jack’s career is properly recognized.

“We have made huge strides in recent years to ensure that English football is more diverse and inclusive. We can see, through the representation of players and staff from our national development team and senior teams, that English football has made great strides, but we know there is more to be done through play on and off the field.

“We remain committed to eliminating discrimination from football and ensuring that it better reflects the communities that watch, support and love football.”

A number of famous black footballers have already been celebrated with statues in the UK, including former West Brom players Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis.

There is also a separate statue for Cunningham, who died in a car accident in 1989 at the age of 33, near the home of Leyton Orient in London. Cunningham made his professional debut for Orient.

There has been much debate around the importance of statues during the Black Lives Matter movement, those who honored former champions of the slave trade, such as Richmond, Virginia, and Bristol, England, have been caught targeted by protesters.

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