Playing in the same football team as Stanley Matthews, Blackpool and England
international star, 1956.
Whilst serving with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry in Kenya, east Africa, as part
of my national service I was privileged to be chosen to play in the same Kenya FA
eleven as the England star Stanley Matthews who was giving exhibitions in Kenya
and now representing the Kenya FA eleven at the African stadium, Nairobi.
Waiting in the changing room, ready to go onto the pitch, a young Asian reporter
came up to Matthews and asked to see his football boots. Stan was sitting next to
me and was wearing a well worn creamy white raincoat that went right down to the
ground covering his boots. ‘Certainly’ said Matthews, as he showed an old scruffy
pair of boots that almost matched his raincoat for condition, but not quite. The look of
shock on that young lad’s face as he said ‘thank you’ and walked away. Matthews
turned to me and just smiled and I smiled back. We both knew what they expected to
see – a new pair of football boots. But Stan was wearing a very well worn pair of
boots, perfect on the hard ground of Africa.
Shortly after that we were led out and lined up to be introduced to the governor of
Kenya and members of the Kenyan FA committee. Matthews was playing in his
usually position, on the right wing, and I was on the left wing. So far into the first half
I was caught on my shin by a clumsy tackle and I went down in pain. Our African
opponents were all bare footed and it must have been his big toe that caught me.
Soon I was up, shook hands and noticed the big smile and big white teeth as the
African walked after apologising. At half time we all stayed on the pitch and were
surprised by the appearance of an old witch doctor who walked and danced around
the ground. Dressed in old clothing he had a few small skulls and other pieces of
what I suppose were articles for his rituals. He performed all round the ground and
finally disappeared. The second half started, 1 each and I accidentally stood on the
foot of a defender. He just stood looking at me, another big smile on his face as
much as to say ‘that’s evens’.
The game ended in a 2-1 win for us with me scoring our winning goal. A celebration
event had been organised on honour of Stanley Matthews on the night in the posh
Nairobi railway and country club for us to be personally introduced to the great man.