October marks Black History Month, a time where we get to celebrate and recognise the black heroes across the County involved in all levels of the game.
We are proud to use the power of football to help tell the stories of iconic black figures in Lincolnshire, and shine a light on their stories like never before. The final inspirational figure within Lincolnshire's footballing community that we've spoken to is current Lincoln City defender, TJ Eyoma.
Timothy (often referred to as TJ), 23, was born and raised in Hackney, and played youth football at Clissold Rangers and Islington-based club Crown & Manor. In September 2018, he signed a professional contract with Tottenham Hotspur until 2021, and made his first team debut in an FA Cup tie against Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park on 4th January 2019 - under then Spurs manager and current Chelsea boss, Mauricio Pochettino.
At the end of January 2020, he joined Lincoln City on loan until the end of the season. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic cutting the season short, he returned to the North London side without making an appearance. He then returned to the Imps on a season long loan the following year, before making the move permanent in August 2021.
TJ also featured in the England side that won the U17 World Cup in India on 28th October 2017, as well as reaching the final of the UEFA European under 17 Championship.
TJ has spoken to us about how important Black History Month is to him, his inspirations, witnessing racism on the football pitch, the importance of representation, and his greatest achievement of his career so far.
In your eyes, how important is Black History Month in both society and football?
Black History Month is very important to me, because it recognises the people before us that fought for us in terms of our rights, as well as showing that no matter what colour you are everyone is equal. The people that standout to me the most are the likes of Martin Luther King, Malcom X and Rosa Parks.
Role models are so important for inspiring the next generation, so can you tell us who yours were growing up and why?
Growing up, you heard of the likes of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King in school who expressed their feelings to the world. But my personal one is my Dad. He instilled in myself and siblings that we can do anything in life if we put our mind to it. He also told us the importance of being humble and respectful because that alone can take you places in life. He also highlighted the fact that there is racism in the world so we have to work twice as hard, if not more, to earn/gain respect.
How important, in your opinion, is having representation for young, aspiring players?
I think it is vitally important to have someone to look up to, as it fuels you with confidence and shows you that you are not alone and it’s ok to be yourself. I look up to Barack Obama, as he was the first black president of the United States and stood by everything he said.
What's been some of your career highlights so far? Coming through Tottenham's academy must have its own challenges?
I think the one that sticks out the most is winning the U17 World Cup back in 2017. It was a real life changing experience as we got to play the tournament in India, and playing in front for 60,000 fans. Another special achievement was making my Spurs debut at the age of 19. It felt like all the trials/tribulations I went through really brought me to that moment. It was difficult coming up through the academy. You see a lot of players come and go, so you feel like you have to work extra hard to keep your place. Everyone was talented, so I think me having to find a way to show personally how mentally tough I was to keep going up through the age groups and developing.
Racism is still a problem, certainly in elite level men's football, especially with social media. Have you personally faced challenges like this? What do you think needs to be done to deal with this?
I personally have never been a victim of racism, but I have seen it on the pitch. It’s not nice to see at all. I feel people need to know it’s ok to be a different skin colour/race, as well as people being taught what people had to go through years back to make the world a better place.
You were part of England's U17 World Cup winning squad, what was that experience like?
Being part of the squad was an honour, but winning it made it extra special. We were a very talented, tight-knit group with no egos so I feel that’s what gave us the edge to succeed over the rest of the countries. Going to different cities in India was also a blessing and memory I will never forget, because we saw the good and the bad of the country and made me really be grateful for what I’ve got. We were literally treated like kings and we let the football do the talking. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of winning something like that, but what I can say is it was special and makes you want more of that.
For more information on Black History Month, click here
For more information on playing opportunities in lincolnshire, click here
For more information on reporting discrimination, click here
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