The Electric Trailblazer Who Met A Tragic End At Madrid

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A statue of a man with arms outstretched and his left foot raised delicately on tiptoes stands in the center of a small east London park, just a stone’s throw from Leyton Orient’s stadium.

His occupation is obvious due to the football in his boots, yet his posture may be that of a dancer or even a trapeze performer.

Laurie Cunningham, an electrifying winger who flowed smoothly across the marshy pitches of the 1970s, swaying past defenders with ease and purpose, was sometimes described as balletic.

Cunningham was the first black player to represent England and the first British player to join Real Madrid. Racist abuse was a common occurrence for him.

Those who remember seeing him play talk of grandeur in hushed tones. Cunningham’s teammate at Madrid, Spain’s former manager Vincente del Bosque, praised him as “the Cristiano Ronaldo of his period.”

Despite this, he could have accomplished so much more.

Cunningham had an otherworldly skill that was hampered by injury and bad luck. He was a trailblazer for black sportsmen who regarded themselves as role models only seldom. He was a man who moved in unusual ways, and whose life was tragically cut short by an accident.

Source: BBC Sport

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