The FA welcomed over 350 guests to Wembley Stadium on Thursday evening, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Windrush.
It was on 22 June 1948 that HMT Empire Windrush sailed into Tilbury Docks carrying over 800 passengers from the Caribbean, to help rebuild post-war Britain.
The impact of the generations that followed on football and English sport in general has been seismic with players, coaches and match officials of Caribbean heritage writing their names into the game’s history over the decades to create a lasting legacy.
And there was a number of those individuals present, with the likes of Sol Campbell, David James, Hope Powell, Mark Bright, Noel Blake, Kerry Davis and Wes Morgan all attending.
The event was hosted by Anne-Marie Batson, ironically the niece of Brendan Batson OBE who was one of those first Black players to break through in top-flight English football with Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion.
Coming into the event, guests could view a Windrush exhibition curated by the Black Cultural Archives before being treated to a performance from UK-based Caribbean band Kaiso.
Guests were then welcomed by FA CEO Mark Bullingham, before a pre-recorded video from FA Chair Debbie Hewitt MBE preceded the first speaker of the evening in Paul Elliott CBE.
Elliott, who was the first Black player to captain a Premier League club as well as being the FA’s first chair of the Inclusion Advisory Board, then paid his own tribute to the Windrush generation.
Food was served to guests, courtesy if Cummin’ Up Caribbean caterers before a video from Gareth Southgate was shown as the England manager paid his own tributes to the likes of Luther Blissett and other players he watched growing up and went on to play with at Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and of course, England.
Anne-Marie then hosted a panel discussion with guests and former England players Luther Blissett, Hope Powell and Jermain Defoe.
They all spoke about their experiences growing up in the UK with Caribbean heritage and their involvement in football from playing as youngsters right through to the professional game and ultimately representing England.
There was more music as the evening drew to a close, with former winner of BBC talent show The Voice, Jermain Jackman, performing for the audience before the event was rounded off by Anne-Marie and a closing speech.
As guests departed Wembley, they received a copy of the book ‘A Place For Me: Stories About The Windrush Generation’ to round off what was a memorable and celebratory evening all-round.
A big thank you to our internal team and to Keah Forino-Joseph and Omari Elliott for driving this event.