Addicks can claim first Black Footballer for England (and pub quizzes)

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 18.49.55

Eagle eyed Addicks may have noticed former Charlton Under 15 player Benjamin Odeje has been confirmed by the FA as the first black player to represent an England National side.

It has taken some time for the story to be confirmed after the matter was first mentioned on a popular fan forum way back in August 2010 by myself after meeting former CAFC captain Roy Hobson of the then Under 15 team as a spokesman for the FA said:

"We've spoken to our historian, and at the time the English Schools' Football Association ran the team.

"But we can confirm Benjamin Odeje was the first black player to represent England at any level."

Odeje, from south-east London, was called up by England schoolboys and made his debut against Northern Ireland in front of 70,000 fans six years before Cunningham's debut.

The story broke on Fridays BBC London news, and Ben at last got the recognition that he deserved.

"I remember standing in the tunnel, and the band was still playing," he told BBC London.

"My knees were knocking and if you'd given me the choice to forget it I probably would have, I was so nervous."

He went on to play for England a number of times, but the history books seem to have forgotten him.

Born in Nigeria but raised in Charlton, he has also coached Queens Park Rangers.
Ben runs soccer schools in north London and hundreds of children aged between five and 13 have been coached by his team.

One parent, John Palmer, told BBC London:

"It is only right and proper that he gets his correct recognition.

"He was the first - and here he is still enjoying the game."

Official recognition would mean a lot to Odeje and his family.

"It's hard for my children, especially in Black History Month when they talk about history-makers at school," he explained.

"They tell friends I was the first black England footballer and other children call them liars. But I am, it is a fact."

Previously it was thought Laurie Cunningham was the first black player to pull on the three lions shirt, but we now we know for sure it was Ben, a Charlton player.

Ken "from Bexley" Sinyard