Little Known Black History Fact: Viv Anderson

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  • English athlete Viv Anderson, a.k.a. “Spider,” was the first black football player to represent England in a full international match. In 1974, Anderson joined the Nottingham Forest team, helping them advance to first division, then win the European cup in 1979.

    As the first black player, Anderson was often in the middle of heavy discrimination from league players and fans. He was told that blacks couldn’t play in cold weather. As he approached the field, some game fans threw bananas, apples and pears at him from the stands, yelling racist chants. And when he was knocked down on the field, some audiences cheered. Anderson never kicked a ball at the prestigious 1984 World Cup tournament that he had helped his teammates advance toward for years.

    Things looked up for Anderson in 1993 when he was appointed manager of his latest team, Barnsley. Unfortunately, he would only remain manager after one disappointing season. He briefly retired, only to return for two games – long enough to be promoted to Premier League. Shortly after, Anderson officially retired from English Football.

    Anderson played for the Arsenal, the Manchester United, the Sheffield Wednesday, the Barnsley, and Middlesbrough teams.

    Fans of his first team, Nottingham Forest, hailed his performance by electing him with 96% of the vote as the all-time greatest player. Then in 2000, Anderson earned political status as a Member of the British Empire (MBE), a distinguished election of chivalry by the queen.

    In 2004 Anderson was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame. He gave back to his sport by opening an exhibition about black sports pioneer Arthur Wharton at the National Football Museum.

    Anderson now works in sports management and runs an online sports bar casino. He was also appointed as the Patron of The Basil Skyers Myeloma Foundation, formed in memory of Basil Skyers, Anderson’s first cousin, who died of multiple myeloma in August 2010.

    Anderson’s story is told in his recent autobiography, “Viv Anderson: First Among Unequals.”

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