FOOTBALL Hall of Fame WA inductee Steve Stacey has featured in a BBC report as he tours Britain in September and October to promote his autobiography, The Colour of Football.
Steve was born in the English town of Bristol and went on to play football for Bristol City – becoming the first African-American professional player in the UK.
He also turned out for Wrexham, Ipswich, Exeter and Bath City before emigrating to Australia over 40 years ago and linking up successfully with Floreat Athena and Rockingham City.
The classy defender also played 12 times for the WA State team, captaining the representative side to victory in the Marah Halim Cup tournament in Inodnesia in 1975.
It was the first time that an Australian representative team had won a tournament in Asia.
Steve was one of the players to be included in the Century of Champions in 2004 when the Hall of Fame Committee named the 100 best players to have graced the WA football scene over a century of excellence.
He was then inducted into the Hall of Merit for Players in 2012.
Steve, who has also coached at a high level and held administrative positions in WA football, was further honoured in July this year when he attended a Hall of Fame function at Optus Stadium to celebrate the the achievements of WA players who had faced Manchester United in challenge games. He captained the State side against United in 1975.
He has now written of his experiences growing up in Bristol and playing football in England and elsewhere. The BBC recently reported on his book launch, which was held in Bristol City’s clubrooms at Ashton Gate.
Steve was born in 1944 and, at the time his father, a black American GI, wasn’t able to marry his white English mother, and so returned to the States, with Stacey remaining in the UK with his mum.
Growing up was tough, but Steve recalls that captaining a street team made him realise that colour wasn’t important when it came to football.
“No matter what had happened in the past, name-calling, being ignored, I never felt I was less worthy than anyone else on the street again, ever … I have considered this often on my journey. With all the glamour of a professional football career, perhaps being captain of the street team was the most important and crucial appointment of my whole life,” he said.
“As I grew up, all my friends and those I played football with were white. As I turned professional, I was admired for my skill with the ball, not for the colour of my skin … Today, teams are brimming with players of different nationalities and colour, and that is the way it should be. But I like to think that, in some small way, I was part of the beginning.”
At nearly 40 years of age, Steve managed to track down his father in the US. The experience opened his eyes to the suffering of black communities in the States, including Kemper County, where his father was born and raised, and the infamous “killing fields” for African Americans.
His book, The Colour of Football, is Steve’s story – growing up, playing football, and discovering his ancestral roots.
Discussing the book launch, Gordon Taylor OBE, Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, said that “People of all backgrounds, races, religions and cultures can come together through football … Steve Stacey is not one of the big stars. But as the son of a black American GI and a white English woman, he was a pioneer.
“Professional football is all about the Steve Staceys of this world … The PFA is proud to have helped Steve tell his story. It is one that will resonate with football lovers everywhere and is a great insight into what it was like to be a professional footballer in Steve’s time.”
The Colour of Football, will be available to buy online.
**Our thanks to The American, Britain’s American magazine, for some of this information.
PIC ONE: Steve Stacey tackles Manchester United’s Lou Macari. PIC TWO: Steve and the Marah Halim trophy. PIC THREE: The cover of Steve’s new book.