Gabriel Evbota holding a football on Harrod Sport Arena

Black History Month - Gabriel Evbota BEM Q & A

Marketing & Communications
We spoke to our newly appointed Inclusion Strategy Advisory Group Chair, Gabriel Evbota BEM, about Black History Month.

Black History Month - Gabriel Evbota BEM Q&A

We spoke to our newly appointed Inclusion Strategy Advisory Group Chair, Gabriel Evbota BEM, about Black History Month and how he reflects on the meaning of the month.

Norfolk FA CEO, Matt Carpenter, Norfolk FA ISAG Chair, Gabriel Evbota BEM and Grassroots Coach, Ebus Onuchuckwa at Norfolk FA's Black & Asian Festival.

What is Black History Month and why is it important to you?

“Black history month is a chance to celebrate and promote the achievements of the black community whilst at the same time addressing and confronting the racism that still exists today, ultimately breaking down the walls of fear and ignorance. If you know more about a certain community, it’s less likely that you will discriminate against them. Black history is also British history.

“Black history month is important, but I don’t agree that Black history should be celebrated once a year, the same goes to Asian or White history.”


Why is it important to discuss and celebrate the successes of Black players in our game?

"Wow this is a hard one for me, because I see a team, not individuals. I have been involved in football all my life and it’s a team that brings about success – black, white and brown. The performance of Black players on the pitch like their white counterparts should be a gauge for whether we celebrate their success, not their race.

"We need to protect Black players from the unnecessary abuse and derogatory racial comments that they must endure, especially when mistakes are made. Take the England penalty saga during Euro 2020 – Rashford, Sancho and Saka – they should not have to experience such awful treatment. As soon as that happened, I took a deep breath and knew what was coming. I was sat in a pub in Norwich. Within minutes of them missing, I overheard a derogatory racial slur dropped into a conversation – and I knew it had begun.

"These boys were no longer English footballers, they were just ‘Black’.

"Black people should not only be valued for when we are excellent, doing well and over performing; we have the right to be mediocre, make mistakes and show vulnerability as well."

Norfolk FA ISAG Chair, Gabriel Evbota BEM at Norfolk FA's Black & Asian Festival.

Did you have a role model in football growing up, who was it and why? What did this mean for you?

"Being from Peckham in South-East London it was Clyde Best formally of West Ham; as well as the trio known as ‘"The Three Degrees" at West Bromwich Albion – Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Baston. These were black men playing the game I wanted to play, in front of a predominantly white crowd. Being the best on the pitch and not being scared or frightened, I watched them every week on TV in awe. Their resilience made me believe and strengthened my mind-set as a child.  It made me realise that I could achieve and succeed if I wanted to, and not be afraid/frightened to be the only black person in a team or in a meeting, or whatever I achieve in life. I am to be proud of my blackness and own it to the best of my ability. People should be able to see and recognise me as Gabby and only Gabby, for my abilities, skills, and knowledge and not the colour of my skin."

Why is it important that The Football Leadership Diversity Code is something that clubs adopt and deliver?

"It’s great that the code has been initiated and even better if clubs adopt and deliver it, but those responsible need to believe in reaching the targets that have been set and not use it as a tick box exercise.

"Black representation in various facets of football is not equal compared to the number of black people playing the game. There are no black managers in the Premier League, and we account for less than 1% of senior coaches – despite making up 30% of the players. Now why is this? Structural and systematic processes of racial inequality within the game - It’s that simple. Just like most institutions, the ability of unconscious bias or racial discrimination informing peoples’ decisions resulting in us not having the same equal playing field as our white counterparts.

"Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not advocating any favours here; people should employ the best person fit for the job – but let’s acknowledge and eliminate the barriers in the way of black people acquiring these roles, because it isn’t from the lack of effort or trying. Fast streaming for black people into various footballing areas is good – leadership, recruitment, team operations - but be careful how you sell it – it’s not extra training, coaching or education – because by doing this you are implying that black people haven’t got the same skills or abilities as their white counterparts.

"The Accelerated, Fast Stream courses that have been put in place now are to rectify and balance out the inequalities over time. But again, clubs must ensure that they appoint and promote the right candidate with the ability and skills to actually do their job and not simply to fulfil an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) target.

"I personally would feel terribly upset, undermined, and disrespected if I found out that I was in a role just to tick a box or fulfil a target."

Norfolk FA ISAG Chair, Gabriel Evbota BEM, Grassroots Coach, Ebus Onuchuckwa and FA National Coach Development Lead (Disability), Darren Moss at Norfolk FA's Black & Asian Festival.

You can read more about Black History Month by clicking here.