Albert Johanneson

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Albert Johanneson
Personal information
Full name Albert Louis Johanneson
Date of birth 13 March 1940
Place of birth Germiston, South Africa
Date of death 28 September 1995(1995-09-28) (aged 55)
Place of death Leeds, England
Height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Playing position Left winger
Youth career
Leeds United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1960–1970 Leeds United 172 (48)
1970–1972 York City 26 (3)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

Albert Louis Johanneson was one of the first high-profile black men, of any nationality, to play top-flight football in England. A native of South Africa, Johanneson is recognised as being the first person of African heritage to play in the final of the Football Association Challenge Cup, more commonly known as the F.A. Cup.


Johanneson, a skilful and swift left winger, was recommended to Leeds United by a South African schoolteacher and joined the club in April 1961.[1] He stayed there for nine years working diligently at his game, and by the 1963–64 season had established himself as a powerful attacking force providing 13 league goals, which assisted in Leeds' promotion from the Second Division.

In 1965, Johanneson earned his berth in the Leeds team at the Football Association Challenge Cup (F.A Cup) Final played at Wembley Stadium. While Leeds lost the match to Liverpool, and Johanneson regrettably did not play his best, he made history by becoming the first black person to feature in the final of the world-renowned football competition.[2]

Over following seasons, a spate of injuries and the emergence of Eddie Gray left Johanneson on the sidelines,[1] and he made only 10 further starts for Leeds before manager Don Revie released him in 1970. Later that year, Johanneson joined York City, scoring three goals in 26 appearances before retiring.[1]

Life after football did not treat the South African well, and he became somewhat of a recluse, painfully suffering from a severe addiction to alcohol. Johanneson died alone of meningitis and heart failure in 1995.[3] He is remembered fondly by Leeds' fans of the 1960s for using his distinctive natural prowess to illuminate the grimness that attached itself to the club's early successes.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In 1963, Johanneson married Jamaican-born pharmacist, Norma Comrie. Together they had two children: Yvonne, born in 1963, and Alicia, born in 1966. The couple's marriage lasted 11 years, ending in divorce in the 1980s.[4]

Johanneson in Popular Culture[edit]

Today, Johanneson is hailed by many as having helped pave the way for the scores of black players that make up the ranks of the English Premiership, especially those with South African roots.[5]

He is also viewed as a courageous pioneer with regard to the racial discrimination he humbly endured from spectators who hurled monkey chants and bananas at him from the sidelines. In the words of footballing legend, George Best within whose era he played: "Albert was quite a brave man to actually go on the pitch in the first place, wasn't he? And he went out and did it. He had a lot of skill. A nice man as well. . .which is, I suppose, the more important thing, isn't it? More important than anything."[6]

Johanneson is currently featured in the Out of Africa Campaign, a UK Heritage Lottery-funded, multimedia project and touring exhibition focused on the contributions of footballers from Africa who have made a substantial contribution to transforming professional football in Britain.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[4]

In 2010, Johanneson was featured in an exhibition examining the history of South African footballers in the United Kingdom as part of the FIFA World Cup celebrations that took place in South Africa. The exhibit was researched by the Sheffield-based Football Unites, Racism Divides organisation and was hosted by the historic District Six Museum in Cape Town.[7]

Web presence[edit]

The official Albert Johanneson Fan Club is on Facebook.[8]


Leeds United


  1. ^ a b c d Mourant, Andrew (1992). Leeds United: Player by Player. Guinness Publishing Ltd. p. 20. ISBN 0-85112-568-9. 
  2. ^ "Albert Johanneson's story". BBC Leeds. 12 October 2005. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  3. ^ Death Certificate
  4. ^ a b Alicia S. Johanneson
  5. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Harrison, Paul (2012). The black flash : The Albert Johanneson story. Skipton, North Yorkshire: Vertical Editions. ISBN 9781904091561. 

External links[edit]