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Football, Ethnicity and Community

The Life of an African-Caribbean Football Club

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Paul Ian Campbell

Winner of the British Sociological Association Philip Abrams Memorial Prize 2017

This book is a case study of an African-Caribbean-founded football club, Meadebrook Cavaliers, from the English East Midlands. Covering the years 1970 to 2010, it seeks to address the paucity of research on the British African-Caribbean male experience in leisure and sport as well as on the relationship between «race» and local-level football. The development of the club was intimately connected to wider changes in the social and sporting terrain. Based on a mix of archival and ethnographic research, the book examines the club’s growth over four decades, exploring the attitudes, social realities and identity politics of its African-Caribbean membership and the varying demands and expectations of the wider black community. In doing so, it shows how studies of minority ethnic and local football clubs can shed light on the changing social identities and cultural dynamics of the communities that constitute them.

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Foreword by Daniel Burdsey

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← xii | xiii →

Foreword

‘We had no right to get into politics!’ Several testimonies from the players of Meadebrook Cavaliers stand out within this book, but this one jumped off the page. It was not that the reflection of this club member came as a surprise. Having undertaken my own extensive research on the history of British Asian men’s football clubs – some of which were, like the Cavaliers, formed by migrants over fifty years ago – I am well aware that politics were rarely the most exigent factors during these teams’ initial forays into local sport.1 Simply getting the opportunity to play the game with friends, to enjoy it and to integrate with players from other teams – and to do so in an environment that was free from racial intimidation and violence – were all more pressing concerns. Rather, what captivated me about this statement was what it signified in terms of the Cavaliers’ subsequent trajectories, achievements and meanings over the last half-century.

At the end of the 1990s, I lived for a year close to the Meadebrooks area, on the other side of Evington Road which leads eastwards out from the centre of Leicester. Through my involvement as a volunteer in anti-racist activity co-ordinated by Leicester City Football Club, I learned about the many achievements of the Cavaliers in amateur football. I also heard about their experiences of institutional discrimination and on-pitch prejudice. By the end of my time living in the city, I had...

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