It’s been almost 30 years since Paul Canoville, the first black player to play for Chelsea, retired from professional football but he remains a very busy man. Paul spends much of his time doing charitable work across the globe with The Paul Canoville Foundation, as well as the Guy Mascolo Football Charity.

Away from his educational work, Paul helps out in the hospitality department at Stamford Bridge and even finds time to respond to the frequent media requests to tell his captivating life story.

Last month, Paul spoke to Paul Mortimer, Kick It Out’s Professional Player Engagement Manager, about a number of important issues including the racist abuse he suffered at Chelsea, as well as his battle against cancer and drug addiction. In the first of our exclusive series, Paul Canoville talks - the Paul Canoville Foundation.


The Paul Canoville Foundation

In 2008, Paul Canoville had one of the most important years of his life. Until then, the racism he was subjected to by his own fans at Chelsea in the 1980s was well-known within the football community but he had been given very little opportunity to present his own experience of the abuse he suffered. Furthermore, the ex-winger's battles against cancer and drug addiction had received even less attention.

However, after Paul published his autobiography, Black and Blue: How Racism, Drugs and Cancer Almost Destroyed Me, everything changed.

The book was an immediate success, receiving excellent reviews and becoming a bestseller, as well as winning several awards such as the Best Autobiography accolade in both the National Sporting Club and British Sports Book Awards in 2009.

“Winning that best book award, it was such a shock. I wasn’t expecting that. You’re not expecting that,” Paul began.

“I was frightened (about it being published). I was embarrassed and ashamed. I had to ask my Mum permission’s because she was playing a part in it. I’m going to speak the truth here. An autobiography means your life. Everything. I’m not going to be holding back.”

And he certainly didn’t. Yet it was success of the book and the positive response to his story that inspired Paul to doing something even more important; he founded The Paul Canoville Foundation, an educational charity aimed at transforming the lives of disadvantaged kids and keeping them on right path to a successful future.

It’s been almost eight years since Paul started the foundation and he remains in high demand, travelling across England and the globe to talk to people of all ages about his experiences.

“I’ve been travelling from the start of this year, since about 15 February, which has been great. I’ve been invited – and I can say that, been invited– to Australia, Russia, America.

“It’s about representing myself, as well as my fanbase, but at the same time representing who I am and sharing with supporters from abroad what Paul Canoville went through at Chelsea.”

The work has been thoroughly rewarding, as he speaks fondly of his time in America and of his new love affair with the people Down Under.

“I’ve been taken in unexpectedly and Australia was a whirlwind for me. It was my first time and it was a three- week visit but they just looked after me so well. I can understand now why people emigrate there to be honest. But  the toing and froinghas been good. If it was bad, I’d say it straight away.

“Before Australia, I went to Atlanta and worked with an organisation who was working for disadvantaged kids, which I do here. And that was so nice; we had a Q & A and I was talking to some refugees about my experiences. They were listening so well to my talk and they told me ‘right, we want you to come next year’. I love it.”

And so do his audiences. The letters of endorsement on his website are endless and speak of his ability to relate to the schoolkids in the highest regard.

“To be honest, I think because of the game today when I’m giving the story of my playing days, they’re shocked. Because obviously they don’t see that in today’s game. And they didn’t realise – ‘what, you were receiving that?’ These are the young kids, as well as the adults.”

While there are still people out there who are unaware of the Paul Canoville story, it remains one worth telling.