This Saturday afternoon sees the Albion mark an important staging point in an unfolding project that has been going on in India for several years now, when Delhi Dynamos arrive at The Hawthorns for an international friendly.
Regular reads of this website and Albion News will have been kept up to date with goings on out on the sub-continent where, largely through the work of the Albion Foundation and local, on the ground coaching organisations, this football club has been building a strong presence right at the bottom end of the society where help is needed most.
A visit to Mumbai aside, much of our work has concentrated on Delhi, the most high profile element of which was Jonas Olsson’s visit there at the end of last season, giving up some of his holiday to take a look at the work we are doing there.
There was no question that it made its mark on Jonas who was, in turn, a magnificent ambassador for the football club, his interest and approach to it all going a long way to make every single one of us – players, staff, fans – appear like something special in the eyes of all those he encountered, from the slums to the lawn of the Vice President’s estate.
Albion have already done some great work there, engaging with the least privileged, building bridges and bringing our communities closer together. And it is that element that all who have visited Delhi have spoken about, the warmth of the welcome, the genuine hospitality received the willingness of those with almost nothing to their name to share that, and themselves, unstintingly with these wealthy visitors from the west.
Well, now it’s our turn.
Delhi Dynamos are in town on Saturday at The Hawthorns, so don’t you think that we as a community should be rolling out the red carpet for our visitors in the same way that we have been treated over there?
As a football club, we hold very tenaciously to our self-image of being open, welcoming, inclusive. Amongst our greatest achievements as a football club was the way we helped break down barriers in the 1970s when we brought Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis, Brendon Batson and Remi Moses into the fold.
That ability to treat people as just that, not as colours or creeds or differences, made this football club very special. As Saturday approaches, offering up the first ever clash between a Premier League team and an Indian Super League side, we have a wonderful opportunity to remind the world that we have not changed in those 40 years, that we are still people who welcome anyone who wants to engage with us with open arms.
More than anything, we can show these representatives of Delhi that our people can be just as warm and generous as the people they have left behind in India, that we can match the welcome they gave us with the one that we will give them.
Saturday promises to be a very different kind of day at The Hawthorns, one where we can be reminded of the greatest truth that lies at the heart of all sport – that nothing on earth offers a greater opportunity to bring people of all kinds together than the simple pleasure of kicking a bag of air around.
It’s a fiver, with the profits going to charity. If you can, come along and make the Delhi boys as welcome here as the West Brom boys were in their city. That’s what we do. It’s who we are.