The name Jack Leslie may not ring a bell, but he was a great soccer man and despite dying in 1988, there’s a campaign for a statue to be erected in his honor.
On the strength of his skill and love for goals, the man born to an English woman and a Jamaican father was picked to play for England in 1925 but he would never earn his first cap and become England’s first black footballer.
The National Football Museum states that Leslie’s call-up was later rescinded and according to the soccer star himself, it was simply because he was Black.
“They (the selection committee) must have forgotten I was a colored boy. There was a bit of an uproar in the papers. Folks in the town (Plymouth) were very upset. No one ever told me official like but that had to be the reason; me mum was English but me daddy was black as the ‘Ace of Spades.’ There wasn’t any other reason for taking my cap away,” Lesly stated, according to CNN.
As a striker, Leslie scored 137 goals in 401 appearances for English club Plymouth Argyle, which has just earned promotion to the third tier of English football, between 1924 and 1931.
And now for his contribution to Argyle and English football, the campaign seeks for his statue to be erected outside Home Park, Plymouth Argyle’s home stadium. The campaign hopes to raise $124,000 for the project of which $31,000 has been raised thus far.
Of the discrimination Leslie suffered, former England international Gary Lineker described it as extraordinary. The campaign enjoys the support of the English Football Association, as well as, Luke Pollard, Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport.
“Jack Leslie should have been the first black player to appear in an England shirt but was dropped once selected because of the colour of his skin,” Pollard wrote on Twitter. “I’m backing the campaign for a statue in #plymouth to remember one of @Only1Argyle’s greatest players,” he added.
Already, former West Brom players Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis have their statues in the UK.
If the fundraising target is exceeded an educational element will be added to the campaign.