Bid to get headstone for Sheffield United and England player

Former Sheffield United player Rabbi Howell
Former Sheffield United player Rabbi Howell
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A campaign to get recognition for the first Romani professional footballer and former Sheffield United mainstay is under way.

Football Unites Racism Divides is backing a push to get a headstone for Rabbi Howell, who was buried in an unmarked grave despite playing for the Blades’ title-winning First Division side in 1898 and for England internationally.

Rab, as he was known, played a vital part in the club’s most successful period and managed 13 years of England duty as well as playing for Liverpool and Preston.

Rab’s story was unearthed when Steven Kay, author of new novel The Evergreen In Red And White, found Rab didn’t even have a gravestone, and got in touch with his relatives.

Steve said: “No one who played for England should be buried in an unmarked grave. Rab has been largely forgotten and I’d love to see his pioneering role recognised. He was a great player and should be remembered.

“Ricardo Andrade Quaresma, Andrea Pirlo, Freddy Eastwood and Eric Cantona walk in Rab’s footsteps. Raising his profile may help underline that Romani people have a long history in Britain and have been contributing to our culture since the Middle Ages.”

Howard Holmes, of FURD, added: “To kick start the campaign for a headstone, FURD is pledging £250. Sheffield United’s Community Foundation are keen to lend what support they can and we hope to widen the campaign.

“Anti-Romani prejudice remains strong throughout Europe – even around English grounds it still seems to be a prejudice that carries little taboo.”

Donations can be made by visiting www.theevergreen.co.uk or by post to Football Unites Racism Divides, The U-Mix Centre, 17 Asline Road, Sheffield, S2 4UJ.