Newcastle legend Shaka Hislop to be awarded Freedom of Newcastle to honour anti-racism work

Shaka Hislop with Habib Rahman, Lord Mayor of Newcastle Credit: Newcastle City Council

Newcastle United legend Shaka Hislop will be awarded the Freedom of the City.

The former Toon goalkeeper is expected to be granted Newcastle's top civic honour in recognition of his role in establishing one of the country's leading anti-racism charities.

The 53-year-old was instrumental in the founding of Show Racism the Red Card in 1996, when he was part of Kevin Keegan's legendary entertainers side.

The former Trinidad and Tobago international's decision to harness his influence as a footballer to combat discrimination came after a well-known incident in which he was racially abused by a group of youngsters at a petrol station opposite St James' Park. One of the group then realised who Shaka was and asked for autographs instead.

The charity, whose headquarters is in North Shields, grew out of a £50 donation and letter of support that he sent to founder Ged Grebby. The organisation now delivers educational sessions to more than 50,000 people across the UK every year.

City councillors are expected to vote next Wednesday to agree to confer the Freedom of the City on Mr Hislop, who is Show Racism the Red Card's honorary president.

Habib Rahman, the lord mayor of Newcastle and a passionate anti-racist campaigner, said: "This is absolutely well-deserved. Shaka is exactly the kind of Geordie citizen we should consider giving our highest honour to.

"There is no one more deserving than him, for everything he has done as a player for Newcastle United and as an ambassador for Show Racism the Red Card in helping to make our wonderful city the diverse and tolerant place it is.

"I would be honoured, as the city's first black lord mayor, to offer Shaka Hislop the Freedom of the City."

The ex-Magpies stopper returned to Newcastle for the first time in 15 years last November to speak at a 'Black Britain and Beyond' event at Newcastle University.

If approved by councillors next week, he will follow former Bishop of Newcastle Christine Hardman in being granted the Freedom.

Other recent recipients also include former Byker councillor George Allison, ex-NUFC chairman Freddy Shepherd and his brother Bruce and Great North Run founder Sir Brendan Foster.

A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: "At a meeting of council next Wednesday, members will be asked to consider a motion conferring Freedom of the City on the former Newcastle United goalkeeper Shaka Hislop.

"This is in recognition of his dedication to the North East-based anti-racism charity, Show Racism the Red Card, which in its 26th year is one of the UK's leading anti-racism charities and now known around the world."