Black London footballers: Pioneers, cage games and setbacks

Playing years above your age group, the intensity of cage football, and growing up in a hotbed of talent.

As part of Black History Month, Japhet Tanganga, Wilfried Zaha and Michail Antonio give a fascinating insight into life as a young black footballer in London.

Crystal Palace winger Zaha, born in the Ivory Coast, moved to Thornton Heath in Croydon as a four-year-old, discusses how growing up in south London, surrounded by cage football, helped mould him into the player he is now.

Zaha also explains how former Palace community coach Colin Omogbehin, now joint-U23s coach at Fulham, was a mentor for him, and what being a role model to others means to him now.

Antonio’s route to the Premier League was equally fascinating, and the West Ham forward explains how several setbacks at non-League level failed to derail him.


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The 30-year-old, who grew up in Wandsworth, started out at Tooting and Mitcham before moving through six other clubs to reach the Premier League with West Ham.

Tanganga, a more recent discovery in the Premier League with Tottenham, discusses growing up in Hackney, and the influence the late Spurs coach Ugo Ehiogu had on him.

The 21-year-old also explains why Viv Anderson, Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham, John Barnes and Paul Ince are role models to him as a young black footballer, going through adversity to pave the way for black footballers like him, Zaha, Antonio and more.

Sky Sports also speak with Chelsea right-back Reece James’ father Nigel, who runs Nigel James Elite Coaching, leaders in all-inclusive elite player performance and development of young players.

James discusses the pressures of being a young footballer, and why Zaha and Antonio are role models.

Read more Black History Month content on Sky Sports, including exclusive interviews and features, here

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