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BLOG: Adrian Chiles previews BBC documentary

Baggies fan discusses Cantello testimonial film

Broadcaster and Albion devotee Adrian Chiles next week hosts a special Hawthorns screening of a new Baggies-themed BBC documentary. Chiles has once again delved into the club’s unique social history to revisit the famous Len Cantello testimonial – when Britain thought nothing of pitching a black team against a white team. Here, Adrian tells us why…

It’s always gratifying when you tell people what you’re making a film about and they’re shocked when you tell them. “You what? A football match, which people paid to watch, between a white team and a black team?” 

Albion fans of a certain vintage will instantly know I’m talking about a testimonial for Len Cantello in 1979. And it did indeed feature a black team against a white team. For the former, there were our Three Degrees and Remi Moses. Bob Hazell and George Berry from up the road. And Garth Crooks who had just joined Stoke. How many others can you name on the team photo?

Many questions arise:
Whose idea was it?
Why does it feel so wrong now?
Why didn’t it feel wrong then? 
Could we have such a game now?
Was there any trouble?
Just how brutal was the life of a black footballer back then?
How hard was it for their families?

How hard must it have been for black fans?
Did we Albion fans really racially abuse other teams’ black players?
Did having black players change our views about race?
How many black players were there who just couldn’t tolerate the abuse and gave up?
How much dressing room banter can be about race without it being offensive?
How far have we come since then?
Have we come as far as we think?
How come there are so many black players but so few black managers?
How come there are so many black players but so few black fans?

I should tell you we’ve only managed to find answers to some of those questions. And generally we’ve only come up with yet more questions. But the best projects tend to be like that. One thing's for sure, I’ve never felt prouder to be an Albion fan, and neither will you if you get to see the film. 

 Whites Vs Blacks: How Football Changed A Nation, presented by Adrian Chiles, will be broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday, November 27 at 9pm.