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Britain's first black female footballer celebrated

INFLUENCE: Emma Clarke

SHE WAS Britain’s first black female professional footballer, but it has taken more than
a century to have her story told.

Last month, the incredible life of Emma Clarke was explored by campaigners Michelle Moore and Anna Kessel, funded by the FARE Network. Moore, a leadership consultant, and sports writer Kessel put together the occasion of the pioneering player to celebrate Black History Month.

Ex-Tottenham Ladies player Eartha Pond was part of the event, which also included Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, writer and deputy editor of Gal-dem, along with author and broadcaster Emma Dabiri. Pond shared her thoughts with The Voice's Crystal Davis on why Clarke’s story has it taken over 100 years to be told.

Crystal Davis: Why has it take over 100 years for us to hear about Emma Clarke’s story?

Eartha Pond: I think it hasn’t been an important issue. Luckily, artist and historian Stuart Gibbs stumbled upon her story and he followed up. There is so much history that we never ever hear about and sometimes that sort of lucky find is good. Then it needed the tenacity of a person to say ‘actually this is something useful’. As we see
today, it is a fantastic topic. I am curious about the Emma Clarke story. Was there someone even before her?


MAJOR INFLUENCE: Young women from Football Beyond Borders and School 21, who gave personal testimonies about Emma Clarke and other black female role models in football

CD: What makes Emma Clarke Black Girl Magic?

EP: I think if you look at her she is the one person on her team that stands out. She obviously proved to be resilient and wanted to show that she was as good as anyone else in a time where we can only as- sume that she was dealing with prejudice and discrimination. But yet she still wanted to do the thing that she was passionate about, whether she was on her own or in a group, she was going to show her excellence on and off the pitch and travel the country doing it.

CD: Goalkeeper, right-winger, could she be one of football’s all time greats?

EP: I think from what we read she is one of football’s greats. I think we have to give her the plaudits that she deserves, unless you can tell me or show me another player that played in all those positions at what seemed to be the highest level at the time. It will be hard to find a modern day player that could emulate that.

CD: Back in my school days, we were taught about the likes of Rosa Parks and Malcolm X, why hasn’t Clarke’s story been taught in schools?

EP: The examples you gave were people who fought adversity. I think Emma wasn’t someone who shouted about it, she got on with it. When you haven’t got that barrier in regards to dialogue maybe it is not interesting, it doesn’t fit the narrative and the agenda that they want to show.

CD: Clarke played in Liverpool before subsequently moving to Scotland, how do you rate her mental strength?

EP: I think it has to be of the highest level, before we even get to the abuse, the cold. A massive change in culture, to overcome that, to still be passionate about something that is not popular, to travel into those different communities and face issues that she did, she can only be applauded for such greatness.

I think we have to keep telling the story. It is quite easy now for people to be told that they can’t do something and they actually take on that mindset, so the fact that Emma had her own growth and mind- set at the time she was one of 14 kids, she is one of only five to survive, she would have dealt with death and bereavement and yet this was still a priority and something that she was passionate about, and she still continued to play.

She was dealing with loads of things but football always shone through, it was a passage and a root for her to show that against all odds I can still be successful.

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