Leroy Rosenior tells Sky Sports News HQ that racism stopped his family from seeing him play
By Jefferson Lake
Last Updated: 02/03/17 10:51am
Leroy Rosenior has opened up on the racist abuse he suffered as a player and how it stopped his family from watching him.
Rosenior made more than 300 appearances for Fulham, QPR, West Ham and Bristol City but just one of those games was witnessed by his family members.
In his autobiography, It's Only Banter, the former Torquay and Brentford manager details the shocking abuse he received and on Thursday he gave a moving account of his experiences on Sky Sports News HQ.
In the book, Rosenior revealed how his sisters were horrified by the abuse their brother suffered from the stands and that they never again returned to see him in action.
Rosenior made his professional debut in 1982 and learned very quickly that racist abuse - even from fellow players - was something he simply "had to deal with".
"I was a bit wet behind the ears and I went straight into football from school," he said on SSNHQ.
"A couple of players started abusing me and they must have had it rehearsed because they had it down to an absolute tee.
"For 90 minutes of the game my head had just absolutely gone, I was in an absolute whirl but it taught me a very serious lesson, that if I wanted to play football at a professional level I'd have to deal with that.
"I saw lots of players who reacted aggressively to it but I knew if I wanted a career in football I just had to get on with it."
The line, however, was crossed for his team-mates when they witnessed the racist abuse go from vocal to physical.
In his book, Rosenior recalls an incident in which he was spat on by a member of the crowd and how he had to explain to his colleagues that he drew no distinction between the different forms of abuse.
"I'd had bananas thrown at me and whatever by then, and when I got in the dressing room I lost my rag," he said.
"I said to my team-mates than when people were doing Nazi salutes or monkey chants they didn't do anything but as soon as they saw something physical they reacted.
"But I felt the same from the chants and from that moment on they understood what I was going through. I was still a young man as well and I wasn't really able to express how I felt to those people."
Such problems no longer exist for Rosenior, who has learned through his career as a player and a manager - and away from the game - that education and communication are crucial.
"I've learned how to speak to people about it over the years," he said. "I did a radio show and the presenter referred to me as being coloured.
"I said to her that I've always preferred to just be called black, that I regard myself as black. She hadn't ever thought that that might be the case."
And then, a long time after those early days as a confused teenager left "in a whirl" by racist abuse, the circle was completed for Rosenior.
"I even saw one of the players who racially abused me on the pitch, about 25 years after it happened," he recalls. "I bumped into him and I was surprised to see him.
"He mentioned what had happened and his tone was very conciliatory. I took that as an apology."