Celebrating Black History Month with MUFC and Avelino

Friday 20 October 2023 11:44

To celebrate Black History Month here at Manchester United, we invited life-long fan, and inspirational musician Avelino to sit down with a number of our men’s and women’s team players to discuss those in the Black community who are inspirational to them, whether that be at home, in football or in other industries.

Avelino recently won the Best Independent Album of the Year at the AIM awards, with his debut album ‘God Save The Streets’ receiving glowing reviews. A passionate Reds fan, Avelino is often seen at United games, and so it felt natural to discuss his inspirations inside football and outside, in wider culture too. 

The conversation naturally began with a focus on football, and with a blend of passion and knowledge about United, Avelino was keen to talk about his favourite player, Andy Cole. 

“Andy Cole, one of my favourite footballers, I used to tell people he was my uncle!" he said. "Inspiring people like this, helps you to dream, you see someone who looks like yourself achieving and doing all these great things, and, all of a sudden, you have proof that more is possible for you, especially growing up in a working-class environment, you can get caught up in the wrong things, and, suddenly, you see someone who looks like you doing amazing things, it can be life-changing.”
Football aside, Avelino, like many others, grew up with role models outside of football. Notably, fellow artist and cornerstone of British music, Dizzee Rascal. 

“When I saw ‘Boy in the Corner’ Dizzee Rascal going up for a Mercury award – it helps you dream, it helps you believe that you can become something, Sometimes you need to see an example of what’s possible to believe it. [These artists], they help you dream, aspire and be something as they are proof it can be done.” 

Aaron Wan-Bissaka shared the same view, in that it’s important to have role models and inspirations in your community, as it constantly inspires the younger generation. He explained to Avelino: “It shows the opportunity and the doors they can open for others, giving the hope that you can do it, if you chase your dreams.” 

He then mentioned fellow baller Wilfried Zaha, “It gets deeper if someone from your area [Croydon] has done it, like Wilfried Zaha – he opened doors and motivated us, growing up, that we could actually do it. You see and hear the stories, what they went through, similar to what you are living.” 
Gabby George, of United Women, underpinned how important it was to have a role model growing up, not just inside football, but outside of it too.. “There are a lot of black artists that are inspirations to all of us black people coming through," she explained. "Sometimes life can be tough, and having a lot of people to look up to growing up is what you need. It’s so important to have someone visually there to see, someone you can be like.” 

And the positive impact of these attitudes are beginning to have an effect, as George explained  “Growing up, I wanted to be a professional footballer, but it wasn’t really a thing. Now they have dreams, and they can be whatever they want to be."

For Nikita Parris, it was important for her to highlight the hard work that multiple trailblazers have put into both women’s football and the Black community simultaneously.

She outlined: “All of the pioneers of the game, Rachel Yankey, Mary Phillip, Alex Scott, all of these iconic players who have been through the mill and not got the appreciation they deserve. Women’s football wouldn’t be where it is today without these players.

"I am so thankful for them going through the hardships for us. They always knew it would get better. They are so invested in the sport and the players. It’s something I aspire to be like.”

Jayde Riviere also explained her journey to where she is right now to Avelino. She went into detail about a particular Black trailblazer for her, stating that “It was hard because there were not a lot of Black female footballers that I knew of until I was a bit older. Someone who was a trailblazer for me - Karina Le Blanc.”

In what was a personal connection to Le Blanc, Jayde went into detail about how she and her family used to attend games that Karina played in.

“We were the only people in the stands that had the Dominica flag when we went to see her play for the Canadian national team. She was representing my family and me, and I had never seen a Dominican player on the Canadian national team before.”

Who are your sporting trailblazers? Video

Who are your sporting trailblazers?

Black History Month | Musician and United fan Avelino discusses inspirations in the Black community with our players...

Melvine Malard, explained to Avelino that her icon growing up was the prolific French forward Thierry Henry, “He is a legend of the game, at the level of someone such as Zinedine Zidane. He’s a good role model who shows a way of life, who’s always shown respect and carried himself well both on and off the pitch. Even when he talks about the little details of football on TV, you can learn and take out tips from his commentary. I like a legendary player that helps people to improve in life.” 

In what was an incredibly powerful and insightful round of discussions, it’s important to always champion those in our immediate communities, so keep tuned in for more content as we celebrate Black History Month here at Manchester United.