Home Adidas jersey The story of the iconic Welsh footballer who inspired the stunning Cymru mural

The story of the iconic Welsh footballer who inspired the stunning Cymru mural

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David Owens

It emerged hours before Wales played Denmark in the last 16 of Euro 2020.

Displaying the side of a Quay Street building in Cardiff, the stunning mural depicting Nicole Ready, 22, wearing a yellow Wales jersey, has been widely praised for its artistic and societal merits.

Part of a project commissioned by Adidas called ‘My Country. My Shirt ”, it carried an important message of diversity and inclusiveness.

The mural was painted by renowned Welsh street artist Bradley Rmer One and produced by Yusuf Ismail and Shawqi Hasson of Unify Creatives, the duo responsible for the ‘My City, My Shirt’ street art project in Cardiff City.

Unify has received widespread praise for its groundbreaking projects, which use the visual arts and football platform to spread the message of inclusiveness in sports.

What little is known is that Unify was inspired by what many Welsh football fans will tell you is one of the most beautiful photographs you will see of a football player, Welsh or otherwise. – Welsh defender George Berry resplendent in his Admiral kit.

George Berry’s photograph, which inspired the My Cymru, My Shirt mural (Football Association of Wales)

“It was absolutely this photograph that was the inspiration for Nicole’s mural in a Wales shirt,” says Yusuf of Unify. “We wanted to showcase people of color in Wales and this photo spoke volumes to me.

“A black woman with an afro is a very striking image and we wanted to make it the focal point of the new mural.”

Photo of Berry, taken as he lined up to make his international debut in a 2-0 loss to West Germany on May 2, 1979 in a Euro 1980 qualifier , is iconic for a number of reasons.

First, at the time he was believed to be the first black footballer to don a Wales jersey, about six months after Viv Anderson became England’s first black international on November 29, 1978.

It was later discovered that, in fact, Eddie Parris had acquired this status about 48 years ago, a fact that had been lost in history for decades.

At the age of 20, the left winger, then with second division team Bradford Park Avenue, made his one and only appearance for the Welsh national team in Belfast on December 5, 1931 when Wales won lost 4-0 against Ireland.

This of course in no way detracts from the iconography of George Berry in Welsh sport, a multicultural totem pole for the time when racism was rife.

LR Gil Reece, Mike England, Phil Dwyer model the Admiral range (credit: Admiral)

No one could look as cool as Berry, in sportswear from Admiral, the company that launched the replica shirt and produced what is considered by many fans to be the best Welsh shirt of all time. .

With its green and yellow stripes and center-chest badge, the shirt was symbolic of an era when Admiral produced kits that were a kaleidoscope of bold color combinations and innovative ideas.

The image of the Welsh defender in his Admiral tracksuit top is so iconic that it still influences stylish football-related clothing all these years later, having been made into an illustration on a t-shirt by Spirit of ’58, the clothing company so closely associated with the red wall.

This runway top, in great demand among collectors and fans of retro replicas, had fans in unexpected places.

According to Bert Patrick, the man who founded Admiral, the tracksuit was popularized by Bob Marley in the 1970s.

Apparently, it was a fan favorite of the reggae superstar due to the shades that matched the Rastafarian colors of red, yellow, and green. It is even said that Marley – an avid footballer, who was seen regularly in replica jerseys and training tops – wore a Welsh tracksuit top on British television, although we may not have could not locate this golden artifact.

George Berry’s illustration seen on Spirit of ’58 t-shirts

George Berry and his Admiral kit certainly had a profound effect on Welsh fan and broadcaster Jonny Owen.

“The first kit I had was given to me for Christmas in 1976. It was the famous Admiral top that Wales had worn in the Euro quarter-finals that year – all red with a collar V-neck and a collar, plus those yellow and green stripes running down the jersey and the shorts, ”remembers Jonny, the documentary filmmaker who made Don’t Take Me Home, the popular Wales documentary at Euro 2016.

“It was the 1970s in a football kit – bold and sassy to the point of outrage. If there had been a soundtrack, it would have been disco, with John Travolta running up the wing. Back then, teams kept a kit for years. Indeed, the man I remember most clearly was George Berry and he only played for Wales in 1979. “

Mountain ash

Berry was born to a Welsh mother and Jamaican father, in Rostrup, Lower Saxony, West Germany, on November 19, 1957.

Ironic when he is expected to record the first of five Welsh caps he won between 1970-1983 against West Germany. Alongside Darren Barnard, Adam Davies, Alan Neilson and David Phillips, he is one of five Welsh internationals to be born in Germany.

Berry had a more memorable long and distinguished playing career at Wolves and Stoke City, and had a West Midlands reporter to thank for his international debut. The press man who informed the Football Association of Wales of his availability, thanks to his Welsh mother.

In one interview with Stoke City fanzine ‘Duck’ in 2019 he recounted his childhood, part of which was spent in West Germany and Mountain Ash in the Cynon Valley.

“My father was stationed there (West Germany) serving in the British Army. I remember when I was three or four, I was in kindergarten – I spoke a little German but not a lot. I understand better when others talk about it.

Soon after, the family lifted the sticks and moved to the country that would offer them their international opportunity.

“We moved to Mountain Ash in South Wales – near a typical mining community,” he recalls. “At school, it took a while to get used to the new language issue. My Welsh mother comes from a large family – 1 in 13 siblings / cousins ​​so I was looked after there.

“There was also a large black community in Cardiff which was new to me and helped me settle down and find my feet. I felt more in phase there.

“My dad was a huge West Indian cricket fan and all the Welsh people out there were passionate about rugby so my future interest in football would have disappointed them – I think they were just thinking ‘oh – poor boy!

The family then moved to Blackpool, where a young Berry forged his fledgling football career playing in the area’s youth leagues, where he was spotted by a Wolverhampton Wanderers scout.

George Berry reading his Wales appeal in the local newspaper

It was at Wolves that he received what for him was a shocking call-up from the Wales national team when he was supposed to be the first black player to come forward for Wales.

“Mike Smith called me first, then Mike England took over,” he recalls. “It was amazing for me. I was still a baby at 20, playing for Wolves. I got the letter, I was the first black player to play for Wales, and it was all over the press.

“It is the biggest honor you can get because then you become one of the top eleven footballers – and the best at that position – in the country.”

He clearly remembers his debut – an intimidating proposition against a dominant West German side

“My debut was against West Germany at Wrexham racetrack – there were 30,000 there,” he said. “The place was full and we were beaten two to zero. It was a great team – Karl-Heinz Rummenigge played, among others. We would lose 5-1 in the reverse game there. They were qualifiers for the Euro – for the 1980 championships. “

Arriving in the ’70s and’ 80s, the Afro-branded player who won the League Cup with Wolves in 1980 has been the victim of racism on and off the pitch.

And the taunts weren’t limited to fans waving banana peels and making monkey noises on the terraces.

In the late ’70s and early’ 80s, racism was also present in the locker rooms of white professionals who tried to make humiliating mockery look like nothing more than friendly jokes.

“It was difficult in your own locker room and even worse on the pitch and then you also had the crowd,” he said in a interview with Express and Star newspaper.

“All of a sudden when there were four and five black players on the team, people realized that [racism] was not good.

“It was obvious,” Berry said of racism during his playing days. “You knew who the racists were because they were in your face.

“Now that’s not acceptable, but that doesn’t stop people from thinking it. The reality is that football reflects society and there is racism in society, so why should there not be racism in football?

George Berry playing for Wolves against Arsenal (Credit: Johnmuk’s “George Berry” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The former center-half also recounted a shocking experience playing Millwall when he was spit on.

“If you remember the old lair you had to go through the tunnel and all of their fans were on top and they had a cage on top so they couldn’t throw things at you,” he said. “I knew it was going to happen, so at halftime, shirt on my head… I had to change my shirt. It was horrible.

“You talk about the different responses from black guys – everyone handled it differently and at some point you have to draw the line in the sand.

“At this point, there is no going back. The problem I found was that when I confronted him it was, all of a sudden, a shoulder chip and attitude issue. It was not a case of “it’s wrong”.

George Berry as he is now

A tough center-half, who wore his heart firmly on his sleeve, George Berry is remembered with great love and tenderness by supporters of Wolves and Stoke City, where he is somewhat of a cult hero.

Since hanging up his boots in 1995, the former Welsh international has continued to be involved in the game. He graduated with a business degree and is currently working as a business manager at the Association of Professional Footballers.

His legacy, however, looms large, nowhere more than a mural on the side of a building in Cardiff.

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