Odemwingie opens national touring exhibition at The PublicPETER Odemwingie last night underlined Albion’s support for the Out of Africa Campaign (OOAC), which has this week launched an exhibition in West Bromwich Town Centre.
OOAC is a ground-breaking, Heritage Lottery-funded project which highlights the important contribution Africa and its footballers have made to the game in this country.
The Baggies are very much benefitting from possessing African talent in their squad, with Nigeria international Odemwingie and DR Congo star Youssouf Mulumbu two of the club’s most popular players.
The project has produced an inspirational documentary, a website featuring a timeline charting the growing influence of African footballers, a resource pack for schools and a touring exhibition, which made its debut at The Public, West Bromwich, on Monday.
Odemwingie, who rubbed shoulders with former Albion right-back Brendon Batson MBE at last night’s launch, said: "It's a great exhibition and I really enjoyed the documentary.
“I've got to know a lot more about the past African players who have come over to England and made a big impact in this country.
“It's pleasing to know their contribution to the English game has not been forgotten and that it is being recognised in this way.
“Albion were the first English club to have three black players in their team and the fans also welcomed me with open arms from the moment I arrived.
“England is one of the best countries to live and play football in for any nationality. That's one of the reasons why a lot of players dream of coming to play in the Premier League."
OOAC focuses specifically on the role players from the world’s second-biggest continent have played in transforming professional football in the UK, raising the aspirations of young people of African heritage and supporting football in tackling racism.
A group of volunteers, aged 14-18, from Sandwell schools and colleges have been trained in how to deliver and manage the project, including oral history guidance, handling and interpreting archives, marketing, using creative media and much more.
They have shed light on the evolving history of African players in British football by carrying out print, photographic and film archive research at both the Premier League’s archives and the National Football Museum. They have also interviewed and recorded the experiences of professional players, managers, coaches and fans.
The national touring exhibition which is showcasing their work coincides with Black History Month and Kick it Out’s anti-racism ‘Weeks of Action’.
It features a timeline that, starting with the world’s first black professional footballer, Gold Coast-born Arthur Wharton, displays the stories of African football stars throughout the years and will remain at The Public until November 25. Admission is free and The Public’s opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm and Sundays, 11am to 3pm.
South African John Paskin was the first African to play for the Baggies when he donned the blue-and-white stripes in 1988.
Since then, the likes of Ifeayani Udeze (Nigeria), Alassane N’Dour (Senegal), Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria), Diomansy Kamara (Senegal), Abdoulaye Meite (Ivory Coast) and Somen Tchoyi (Cameroon) have followed in his footsteps.
With Odemwingie having finished as the club’s top scorer in each of the past two Barclays Premier League seasons, and Mulumbu establishing himself as a firm fans’ favourite thanks to his box-to-box displays in central midfield, Albion’s African connection remains as strong as ever.
Mulumbu said: “Just like Peter, I’m very proud of my roots and it’s great that the contribution African players have made to the game in this country is being celebrated in this way.
“It’s an important campaign that is promoting many key messages. What makes it even more special to us at this football club is that the young people who have secured the funding and carried out the research are from our local community.”
The Baggies are delighted to be lending their support to the campaign, which complements the diversity, inclusion and equality work the club’s official charity, The Albion Foundation, conducts week in, week out in Sandwell, Dudley and surrounding areas.
The Foundation also works hand in hand with The Public on art-based programmes that ‘Inspire to Achieve’. The Public provide support for the Foundation’s ‘time-out’ programme that aims to re-engage young people at risk of exclusion through alternative provision.
Education staff are planning to visit the ‘Out of Africa’ exhibition with young people as part of the broad and balanced curriculum delivered by The Albion Foundation School.
The exhibition will move onto other venues before reaching its permanent home at Football Unites Racism Divides, in Sheffield.
For further information about the OOAC, visit: www.outofafricacampaign.com. You can also learn more by searching for ‘Out of Africa Campaign’ on Facebook or following their Twitter feed: @ooacampaign
PIC: BAGGIES BACKING...Odemwingie joins Sandwell Mayor, Councillor Keith Davies, in officially opening the Out of Africa exhibition at The Public alongside former Nigeria defender Efe Sodje