His success remains relatively uncelebrated but the sprinter from Guyana set in motion the changes which would allow British athletes of colour to achieve the success they have today, writes Mick O’Hare

His success remains relatively uncelebrated but the sprinter from Guyana set in motion the changes which would allow British athletes of colour to achieve the success they have today, writes Mick O’Hare

Sam Mussabini was not a popular man in the higher echelons of British athletics. He was a professional sports coach and to the Amateur Athletic Association was thus anathema. Even worse, before coaching he had been a professional athlete and had therefore earned himself a lifetime exclusion from the association. The AAA clung to the notion of the pure amateur, a noble breed forged in the public schools of Victorian England.
Sport was there to develop character an unwavering part of the creed of the Muscular Christian  and filthy lucre had no part to play in it. It was unholy cash that had seen rugby league split for the avowedly amateur rugby union at the end of the previous century, and the custodians of other sporting bodies  despite the ethos of Muscular Christianity taking something of a battering in the mud of Passchendaele and the Somme during the First World War were determined that the purity of their sports would not be compromised. 
Rules surrounding professionalism were arbitrary, inconsistent and seemingly hypocritical the AAA employed coaches and masseurs but crucially not paid for by the individual athletes, which apparently made a difference and were often pursued with capricious zeal. The rugby union authorities believed that matches under floodlights smacked of professionalism while simply to have been caught watching a rugby league match warranted a lifetime ban.
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