Saluting Albert Johanneson Of Leeds United: The First Black Footballer To Play In The FA Cup Final

Paul Sorene

28th, May 2015

2 Comments

South African footballer Albert Johanneson (1940 - 1995) of Leeds United, with fans at the Hendon Football Club ground, London, during a team training session before the FA Cup final against Liverpool, 28th April 1965. Johanneson is suffering from a leg injury and is acting as a ball carrier at the session. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Albert Johanneson of Leeds United, with fans at the Hendon FC ground, London, during a team training session before the FA Cup final against Liverpool, 28th April 1965. Johanneson is suffering from a leg injury and is acting as a ball carrier at the session. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Pies are offering a humble tribute to Albert Johanneson, the first black footballer to play in the FA Cup final. Born into a divided and terroristic South Africa, the winger played for Leeds United against Liverpool in the 1965 FA Cup final.

1st May 1965:  Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh meeting the Leeds players before an FA Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 2-1.  (Photo by D. Newman/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

1st May 1965: Prince Philip meets the Leeds players before an FA Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by D. Newman/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Before the match he was hit by nerves, so much so that Johanneson actually asked Leeds manager Don Revie if he could be dropped.

No chance, said Don. At pitchside, a man from the Liverpool contingent supposedly looked at the stricken player and told him: “You’ve got no chance looking like you do. Our fans will murder you.”

He had bags of talent. As his captain Billy Bremner noted: “When he joined Leeds the rest of the team stood open-mouthed, drooling over his trickery. He was a bloody excellent player and had so much pace and strength, he was a great athlete.”

Leeds United footballers Ian Lawson (left) and Albert Johanneson (1940 - 1995), 26th November 1963. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Leeds United footballers Ian Lawson (left) and Albert Johanneson, 26th November 1963. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

He was great. And he was black. Revie told him to not let the “‘jungle bunny chanting’ get to you”.

Johanneson told Paul Harrison for his book, The Black Flash: “When we walked out [at Wembley] all I could hear was a cacophony of Zulu-like noises coming from the terraces.”

“It was dreadful, I could barely hear myself think for those screams. I wanted to run back down the tunnel.”

Johanneson performed poorly. The Liverpool fans got to him.

As Bremner put it: “He could play, but it was as if Albert couldn’t believe it was happening to him, as if he thought a black man wasn’t entitled to be famous.”

August 1968:  South African footballer Albert Johanneson of Leeds United in training.  (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

August 1968: South African footballer Albert Johanneson of Leeds United in training. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Here’s ex-Leeds forward Brian Deane paying tribute:

“As young, football-crazy lads growing up in Chapeltown, Leeds, in the early 1970s, Albert Johanneson was a name that we were all familiar with. Although his career was over, we knew he had been a great player for Leeds United and an inspiration for the next generation of black footballing talent in the city.

“He was a true pioneer, and one can only imagine how hard it must have been for Albert as the only black person in the stadium, never mind just on the pitch, in an age when there was open hostility against people purely because of the colour of their skin.

“I know he received some terrible stick from opposing fans, but he persevered and became a hero both to the Leeds supporters and the black community in the city and beyond “It is brilliant that his achievements are now being recognised, 50 years after being the first black footballer to appear in a Wembley Cup Final.”

Albert Johanneson made 200 appearances for United scoring 68 goals. Sadly, there wasn’t much in the way of good fortune to follow.

According to a Beeb documentary that aired in 2005, “By the 1970s, his wife and children were gone having left him alone in Leeds. Sadly, when he died in 1995, he’d become a penniless alcoholic.”

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Posted in FA Cup, Featured, Newsnow, Photos, Retro

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2 Comments

  1. Glyn says:

    I had the pleasure of seeing Albert play during the latter part of his career and then later was lucky enough to have known Albert.
    By the time I got to know him the alcohol already had him in his grip and he was a shadow of my boyhood hero. Despite all of his problems Albert was a really nice guy, never a bad word, never once heard him moan or cuss or swear, always the sweetest guy you could wish to meet.
    His end and the nature of it were even then inevitable but despite knowing him in some of his darker days he is, always was and always will be a hero to me. A gentleman.
    RIP Albert and MOT.

  2. OzTyke says:

    Well said, Glyn.
    At the end of the day, Albert was good enough for Don, and there can be no greater commendation from that era at the club.
    I like the photo of Albert showing off his skills, and the admiring Harvey, Sprake, Reaney, Madeley, Cooper, Hunter… not a bad gallery!!!

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