New book tells story of football trailblazer

Updated: 29 December 2012 07:49

Albert Louis Johanneson was the first black player to play in an FA Cup Final, on May 1 1965. A new biography discovers how the South African player's extraordinary breakthrough was inevitably tarnished by racism.

Albert Louis Johanneson was the first black player to play in an FA Cup Final, on May 1 1965. A new biography discovers how the South African player's extraordinary breakthrough was inevitably tarnished by racism.

Johanneson lined up for Leeds United against Liverpool at Wembley, an unprecedented appearance on the filed of Cup Final play which made some people very uncomfortable. The Black Flash: The Albert Johanneson Story by Paul Harrison investigates the life of this extraordinary player, a life which ended prematurely.

Billy Bremner described him as "incredible... he would spin and leave defenders 10 yards behind in the blink of an eye". Alf Ramsey, England's 1966 World Cup-winning manager, declared: "There was no comparable footballer of his type in Europe, maybe George Best."

However, 30 years after the 1965 Cup Final, the "Black Flash" was found dead in a Leeds flat at the age of 55. The one-time genius had been living in poverty, and had become an alcoholic.

Paul Harrison attempts to find out why Johanneson experienced such a dramatic fall from grace.

The biography documents the privations and difficulties endured by the first crop of foreign players, as they began to make their names in 1960s Great Britain.