- Emile Heskey discusses Black History Month, his experiences of racism and the importance of black roles models in all areas of football
- The Premier League’s No Room For Racism campaign launched this month
- Heskey highlighted the need to ensure action and change is initiated in the game
The Premier League’s No Room For Racism campaign was launched earlier this month and, speaking in a recent interview, Heskey outlined his thoughts on how to address the lack of diversity within many areas of the game.
Talking openly about his early career as a young player, Heskey says he was not personally affected by racism, but has heard many firsthand stories about how his family and friends experienced difficulties.
He said: "I joined Leicester City's Centre of Excellence at nine and obviously I went all the way through. I didn't actually join Sunday League football until I was about 10 or 11.
"I can't say I had major problems in that sense, I didn't really have that. I subsequently spoke to a lot of my family members and friends and talked about their journey within football, they were in grassroots and their [experience] was horrific.
"But I'm wondering why was mine totally different to theirs, which I can't put my finger on. It was different for me, I didn't have the problems that they had.
"I probably got the odd 'are you sure he's that age?', because I was a decent size when I was a kid, but apart from that I never really had the out and out racism that you see. Little bits, but nothing every week."
The ex-England international, who is an ambassador for the newly-professional LCFC Women, also spoke about why Black History Month matters.
When you go past that playing field and into other realms, there's not so much diversity and this is possibly what we should be looking at and saying 'well, why is that?'.Emile Heskey
"It shouldn't be just this month, the importance is that the message is out there all the time, that there are pathways there, that there is an opportunity for everyone to be involved in this sport," he commented.
"It's not for one person, it's for everyone, that if you're good enough, you will prevail and you should be given the opportunity to come through at any stage."
Heskey believes it is important for the younger generation to have clear pathways available into professional elite sport to ensure the inclusivity seen on the pitch is replicated in all areas of the game.
"Within football, when you're talking about the playing side, it's very inclusive, I think 30 per cent," the former Fox explained.
"But when you go past that playing field and into other realms, there's not so much diversity and this is possibly what we should be looking at and saying: 'Well, why is that?'.
"Are we going to lose another generation of coaches and how are we going to rectify that and bring that to a halt? And try to keep looking at the Raheem Sterlings and going down, even my kids and below them, how do they look at the role models?
"They see different players as role models but what is the next step for them? And if you can't get on that playing field, where can you get in within football and who are your role models within that as well?
"I think it's interesting that we have a really big platform within football, but we still have a lot to do."
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