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Major documentary series on Wales’ Black and Asian footballers released

17 Jul 2023 6 minute read
Former Wales international George Berry who features in The Dragon On My Shirt (Credit: The Dragon on My Shirt / EatSleep Media)

David Owens

A brand new documentary series, exploring Black and Asian heritage footballers who have represented Wales, and the work being done to make football in Wales more inclusive, will premiere in Cardiff later today.

The Dragon on My Shirt will receive its first look at Chapter Arts Centre at 5.30pm, before streaming on RedWall+, the Football Association of Wales’ free online platform.

The series is written and presented by Darren Chetty co-editor of Welsh (Plural). The series features interviews with Cymru players George Berry, Wendy Reilly, Safia Middleton Patel, Robert Earnshaw, Nathan Blake and Neil Taylor.

The Dragon On My Shirt begins with Eddie Parris, who in 1931 became the first Black player ever to play football for Wales. Darren speaks to the people who have been working to research and memorialise Eddie, including historian Professor Martin Johnes and Professor Uzo Iwobi CBE, Chief Executive of Race Council Cymru, as well as local historian Liz McBride and councillor Armand Watts.

George Berry appearing for Wales in the 1970s (Credit: The Dragon on My Shirt / EatSleep Media)

Subsequent episodes focus on:

· George Berry, the first Black player to play for Wales in the post-war era, celebrated on the Spirit of 58 t-shirts. George recalls the moment he learnt of his Wales call-up, as well as some of the horrors of racism in the late 1970s and early 80s.

· Wendy Reilly, the first Arab-heritage woman to play for Wales, who made her debut for Wales aged 16 and went on to captain and coach the women’s team. Wendy talks about the challenges of playing women’s football at a time when the women’s team weren’t associated with the FAW. Nathan Blake shares his memories of growing up on the Ringland Estate in Newport with Wendy, and how she was the best footballer on the estate.

· Safia Middleton-Patel, who became the first woman of Indian origin to sign a professional contract with Manchester United earlier this year, before making her debut for Wales Women in the Pinatar Cup only a month later. Safia represents a new generation of players coming through the system and shares her thoughts on those trailblazers who came before her.

· Robert Earnshaw, the highest scoring Black player for the men’s team. Darren talks to Rob and his mother, Rita, about living in Zambia and Malawi and relocating to Wales, and takes Rob to the Principality / Millennium Stadium to relive his winning goal against Germany, and hat-trick against Scotland.

Watch the trailer for The Dragon On My Shirt

Each episode includes in-depth interviews with the players themselves, as well as footage and photographs from the era and the players’ personal collections.

In the final episode, the focus is on grassroots football and activism with Neil Taylor, the first player from a South Asian background to play for Wales, goal-scorer in Euro 2016, and current Under 21 assistant coach, about his work with Asian Inclusion Mentors (AIMS), supporting Asian heritage players and their families.

Also featured are Sean Wharton, the first Black manager in the Welsh Premier League, Ahmed Noor and Yacub Ahmed from Cardiff Bay Warriors, winners of the British Somali Champions League, and trainee referee Eleeza Khan of Amar Cymru, an organisation for Wales fans of South Asian heritage.

Yusuf Ismail and Shawqi Hasson of Unify, creators of the My Cymru, My Shirt visual campaign, talk about how they were inspired by a 1979 photograph of George Berry in the famous Admiral kit of Wales.

The series is directed by Vicky Morton, a senior videographer at EatSleep Media. who produced the series for the Football Association of Wales’ (FAW) online platform Red Wall+

Former Wales international Neil Taylor (Credit: The Dragon on My Shirt / EatSleep Media)

“As a life-long Wales fan with a diverse family background spanning three continents, working on The Dragon on My Shirt was a dream come true,” said Darren Chetty. “In Welsh (Plural) I wrote about how football can be both unifying and divisive. It was a fantastic experience to explore this further with people in The Dragon on My Shirt- including players that I’ve watched and cheered on from the terraces. This series is another step in acknowledging Wales’ diverse histories, in championing changemakers , and in reflecting on the challenges that remain.”

Robert Earnshaw added: “It’s been such a privilege to be a part of this series. It uses sport as a vehicle to examine race, equality, society and culture in Wales, and importantly, it looks forward, not just back. Working with Darren, talking about my career and experiences, and learning about other people’s experiences has been such a pleasure as well as truly inspiring.”

Robert Earnshaw with Darren Chetty (Credit: The Dragon on My Shirt / EatSleep Media)

Jason Webber, Senior Equality, Diversity, Inclusion & Integrity Manager at the Football Association of Wales commented: “At the FAW we want to celebrate the history of Welsh football and the amazing stories of players who blazed a trail. This series allows us to explore the stories of some of our Black and Asian players who have proudly worn the Dragon on their shirt and represented their country. Through the telling of these stories we hope to help tackle racism in football and inspire more people from ethnically diverse backgrounds to engage in Welsh football and go on to represent Wales.”

The Dragon on My Shirt is funded by The Anti-Racist Wales Fund provided by the Welsh Government. Filming took place in Chepstow, Swansea, Newport, Cardiff, Wrexham, Mountain Ash, and London. The Dragon on My Shirt also features music by Welsh artists Sage Todz, Lemfreck, Juice Menace, Don Leisure and Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18.

To watch The Dragon On My Shirt, which will start streaming later today, and all the content on Red Wall+ click HERE

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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
8 months ago

Cymru, being the truly wonderful place that it is, draws divers diverse peoples to it, some come and live here they become Cymraeg too and we are enriched.

Vitality comes from variety, a country’s strength and future lies in the people that live in it. Like “family” Cymru is that which we shelter under and hold up with our hands and deeds.

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
8 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Some bigot dork downvoted your comment, so I have upvoted it because you are totally right.

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