Wednesday 31 October 2012
West Bromwich Albion forward Peter Odemwingie has praised the Out Of Africa Campaign after attending the launch of the project's touring exhibition in the town centre last week.
The Campaign celebrates the contribution of Africa and its footballers to the game in the UK and it has produced an inspirational documentary, a website featuring a timeline charting the growing influence of African footballers, a resource pack for schools as well as the touring exhibition.
Nigeria's Odemwingie met former Albion right-back Brendon Batson MBE at the launch and said he was impressed with what was on show.
"England is one of the best countries to live and play football in for any nationality"
"It's a great exhibition and I really enjoyed the documentary," said Odemwingie, West Brom's top scorer for the last two seasons. "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 highlights the role that players from the world's second-biggest continent have played in transforming professional football in the UK - 160 African players have featured in the Barclays Premier League since the 2003/04 season - which has raised the aspirations of young people of African heritage and supporting football in tackling racism.
John Paskin, of South Africa, was the first African to play for the Baggies when he came to the club in 1988.
"It's an important campaign that is promoting many key messages"
Since then, 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 to The Hawthorns, while Odemwingie and DR Congo's Youssouf Mulumbu are two of the club's most popular players.
"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," said Mulumbu.
"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."
Teenage volunteers from schools and colleges in the local area 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, in Manchester. They have also interviewed and recorded the experiences of professional players, managers, coaches and fans.
The exhibition will be in West Bromwich until 25 November. Admission is free and The Public's opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm and Sundays, 11am to 3pm.