Valerien Ismael proud of West Brom's race fight

Valerien Ismael says he is proud to manage Albion because of the club’s history in fighting racism – with the boss revealing both he and his father have been the target of abhorrent abuse.

Valerien Ismael Head Coach / Manager of West Bromwich Albion. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Valerien Ismael Head Coach / Manager of West Bromwich Albion. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Baggies stars Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson inspired a generation of footballers and also silenced many racists with their incredible performances.

By picking those players each week, Albion became the first English club to regularly name three black players in their line-up.

Today, though, racism is on the rise again. And Ismael says it’s imperative fans report abuse if they see or hear it.

“October marks Black History Month and it has been a reminder once more of the prominent part our football club played in leading the battle to eradicate racism from the game,” Ismael said.

“It is a fight that, unfortunately, continues to this day but I am proud the club remains a leader in this area – last month securing the first ever custodial sentence for online racism aimed at a footballer.

“When I arrived here I was not aware of the club’s heritage and history as pioneers on this subject but it is fate, perhaps, that I am now head coach.

“My father was born in Guadeloupe and later moved to France where he married my mother. He faced unimaginable hatred for the colour of his skin and it is unfortunately something I came to expect during my childhood and then during my football career – both as a player and manager.

“I consider myself so fortunate to be head coach at a progressive club where racism is not tolerated.

“This does not mean it is not present, unfortunately it is. But when it is seen or heard, it is reported, acted on and the person is held accountable.

“It is important there are consequences for such behaviour.

“But it is essential we also educate young people. Education is the real key to eradicating racism in football and wider society.

“The fight led by Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson will never be forgotten. But it does not mean we can afford to be complacent. History is important but so is what we are doing now and we must continue to lead. Their legacy is too important for us to do anything other than remain on the front foot.

“If you see or hear racism at The Hawthorns I urge you to report it.”

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