Every player of colour owes a gratitude to players like him
Former Trinidad and Tobago English Premiership goalkeeper Shaka Hislop has paid tribute to former player Cyril Regis following his untimely passing on Monday.
Hislop who played for teams such as Reading FC, West Ham United, Newcastle United and Portsmouth during a career in England that spanned fourteen years from 1992, said Regis was a fine example as one of the first black footballers to make a significant impact on the British game.
“My lasting impression of Cyril Regis will always be of him in that West Brom kit which I think go hand in hand with each other. But moreso than my memories of Cyril Regis as a player is as at the person and what he meant to me in terms of being an example as a young kid growing up in Trinidad and Tobago,” Hislop told TTFA Media on Monday.
“Looking at English football, there weren’t a lot of examples of players of colour who plied their trades professionally in England or any of the major European leagues. Cyril Regis looked like me. He looked like the people I grew up playing football with, he played like the people I grew up playing football with and the type of football I admired. That was my earliest memories of him and the early importance of him to me as a player,” said Hislop who is now an ESPN analyst.
Regis, who was a striker, represented the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Coventry City and Aston Villa over the course of a 20-year playing career that began in the 1970s.He was also capped five times by England between 1982 and 1987.He signed for Midlands club West Brom in 1977 where he had the most potent spell of his career, scoring 112 goals in 297 games.
It was there he played alongside two other black players, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson.
The trio became known as the “Three Degrees” and were frequently the targets of racist abuse and chants.Regis described some of that abuse in a recent interview with CNN.
“The worst for me was getting my first England cap and receiving a bullet through the post saying ‘if you put your foot on our Wembley turf, you’ll get one of these for your knees,'” Regis recalled.
“But in England I think we’ve come a long, long way from where we were in the seventies,” he added.
Hislop, who is a honorary President and founding member of Show Racism the Red Card, added that he appreciate Regis’ trials as he grew older.
“Later on in life I learnt to appreciate exactly what he had to endure to be a player of colour in one of the major European leagues,” Hislop said of Regis.
“And the details were harrowing yet still everytime I met him there didn’t seem to be any remorse, any regret or any ill feeling toward anybody for what he had to endure during a game and just enjoy the privileges that I certainly took for granted as a player during my time and so many players can do to this day.
“Every player of colour owes a gratitude to players like Cyris Regis, to John Barnes, Viv Anderson just to name a few for what they had to endure, how they did it and laid a foundation for all of us to play this game that we love,”Hislop stated.
Anti-racism charity Kick It Out said Regis was “a great supporter” of its work to tackle racism in football as well as “one of the first iconic black players of the professional game.”
Regis was born in Maripasoula, French Guiana, to Robert, a fisherman turned gold miner originally from St Lucia, and his wife, Mathilde (nee Fadaire), a seamstress, whose family hailed from Guadeloupe.
Regis is survived by two children Robert and Michelle and three grandchildren Jayda, Renée and Riley.