Black and Blue: The story of Chelsea’s Paul Canoville
Last Updated: 25/03/15 7:45pm
The remarkable and powerful story of Chelsea’s first black player is told this Sunday on Sky Sports.
The documentary Black & Blue charts the life of Paul Canoville, who suffered racial abuse from his own fans as well as opposing supporters after making his debut for the club in 1982.
“I was full of beans wanting to impress, I was just so ready,” the winger says of his first game as a substitute away at Crystal Palace. “I started to warm up and I heard this racial abuse. Words that I couldn’t understand, monkey chants and being told to go back to my own country.
“I thought to myself, ‘boy are these Crystal Palace fans for real?’ But then I realised it wasn’t Crystal Palace fans - it was my own fans. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Canoville went on to play more than 100 games for Chelsea but still suffered problems.
“After making my debut the racism got worse. In particular games there were fans turning up with pillowcases over their heads and bananas were being thrown on the pitch. I heard that when a black man scored it wasn’t counted as a goal and that was coming from my own fans.”
Canoville left Chelsea in 1986 to join Reading but his career was cut short by injury and he was forced to retire in his mid-20s. Unable to cope with life after football he went into a downward spiral and he became addicted to crack cocaine.
“I couldn’t adjust and the demons set in. That demon was drugs. I was getting depressed not being able to play. I hated myself and pawned my Division Two promotion medal to buy crack.”
In addition to the drug addiction Canoville also suffered cancer twice. He hit rock bottom when his son Ty developed an illness shortly after birth.
“The day we went to register his name was the day he started to struggle. He died in my arms just nine-days old. After that I knew I had to change my ways.”
The story has a happy ending. Canoville overcame his drug addiction and beat the cancer. He now works in the community delivering workshops at schools encouraging children to take education seriously as well as chasing their dreams.
And despite a few recent incidents he believes football is nothing like it was 30 years ago.
“When I returned back to Chelsea I was shocked to see seven black players in the team. A bloke tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Paul you started this’. I felt proud and honoured. I just didn’t think I’d be remembered.”
Watch Black & Blue on Sky Sports 1 at 6.55pm on Sunday after Hull v Chelsea