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Football

Arsenal made history 20 years ago today by fielding nine black players, where are the legendary XI now?

Rory O'Callaghan

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Arsenal made history 20 years ago today by fielding nine black players, where are the legendary XI now?

Twenty years ago today, Arsenal made history by becoming the first English side to field nine black players in a competitive match.

For many Arsenal supporters, the trip to Leeds United on September 28, 2002 was an iconic moment for the north London club, one of the most progressive in the Premier League at the time.

Arsene Wenger's multicultural side had won the league title just months earlier and easily swatted aside Leeds 4-1 at Elland Road.

Here we take a look at the starting XI for the Gunners that day, and where they are now.

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David Seaman

One of two white players in Arsenal's starting line-up against Leeds, former England goalkeeper Seaman played for the Gunners for 13 years between 1990 and 2003. After leaving Arsenal, he spent a single season at Manchester City before retiring. He returned to the club in an informal coaching role last year after being contacted by academy boss Per Mertesacker, while he also hosts a football podcast titled 'Seaman Says'. 

Lauren

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The former Cameroon international played for Arsenal between 2000 and 2007 and was part of the legendary 'Invincibles' team that made history by going through the entire Premier League 2003-04 season undefeated. After leaving Arsenal, he spent two years with Portsmouth before short-lived spell at Spanish side Cordoba. He is currently an Arsenal ambassador for Africa and was also appointed as a FIFA technical expert for talent development across the continent earlier this year.

Lauren spent seven years at Arsenal (Image: Alamy)
Lauren spent seven years at Arsenal (Image: Alamy)

Sol Campbell

Campbell became the most hated man in Tottenham when he swapped Spurs for north London rivals Arsenal in 2001. He would go on to spend five years with the Gunners and was also part of the legendary 'Invincibles' side. Campbell moved on to Portsmouth and Notts County before returning to Arsenal for six months in 2010. He last played for Newcastle before retiring in 2012. Campbell later moved into coaching, working with the Trinidad and Tobago national side before being appointed Macclesfield Town's manager in 2018. After leaving the financially troubled club the following year, Campbell took charge of Southend United but left the club in 2020 after they were relegated from League One when the season was prematurely ended by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to his coaching career, Campbell has also built up a multi-million-pound property portfolio and also owns a luxury furniture business with his wife, Fiona Barratt. 

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Pascal Cygan

French defender Pascal Cygan spent four years with Arsenal between 2002 and 2006. He later moved on to Villarreal before ending his career with another Spanish side, Cartagena, in 2011. Following retirement, he became assistant manager at Belgian club KSV Roeselare. He is now an U18 coach at another Belgian side, Royal Excel Mouscron.

Ashley Cole was part of Arsenal's legendary Invicibles team (Image: Alamy)
Ashley Cole was part of Arsenal's legendary Invicibles team (Image: Alamy)

Ashley Cole

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Cole graduated from Arsenal's academy in 1999 and would remain with the Gunners until 2006, when he jumped ship to join rivals Chelsea in a hugely controversial transfer. He would go on to spend eight successful seasons with the Blues before further spells with Roma, LA Galaxy and Derby County before retiring in 2021. After dabbling in punditry, Cole moved into coaching at Derby following his retirement. He left to join Chelsea's academy after Frank Lampard was appointed senior manager in 2020 and was later named as assistant to England U21 boss Lee Carsley in 2021. He later joined Everton as a first-team coach in February of this year after Lampard was appointed Toffees manager. 

Kolo Toure

Toure played at Arsenal from 2002 to 2009 and later moved to Manchester City, Liverpool and Celtic before retiring from professional football in 2017. He made his first moves into coaching later that year with the Ivory Coast's U23 team before joining his former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' coaching staff at Celtic. When Rodgers left Glasgow for Leicester in 2019, Toure joined him and he still remains part of the coaching set-up at the King Power Stadium.

Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira is now manager of Crystal Palace (Image: Alamy)
Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira is now manager of Crystal Palace (Image: Alamy)
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Patrick Vieira

The former France international played for Arsenal for nine seasons between 1996 to 2005. He later moved on to Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City before hanging up his boots in 2011. He immediately became a development executive at City and was later appointed manager of affiliated club New York City FC. Vieira worked with the MLS side for two seasons before being appointed head coach of Ligue 1 club Nice. Vieira later joined Crystal Palace in 2021, where he continues to impress as manager.

Gilberto Silva

The former Brazil international joined Arsenal in 2002 and remained at the club for the next six seasons. He later played at Panathinaikos, Gremio and Atletico Mineiro before retiring in 2013. Silva briefly worked a pundit for ESPN before returning to Greek football with Panathinaikos, becoming the club's technical director in May 2016 – lasting just seven months in the role. He now runs a football consultancy business and currently represents fellow Brazilian, Manchester United midfielder Fred.

Sylvain Wiltord

French forward Wiltord spent four seasons with Arsenal between 2000 and 2004. He later returned to French football with Lyon before moving on to Rennes, Marseille, Metz and Nantes – eventually retiring in 2012. Three years later he competed in the French reality TV show 'Dropped', which literally dropped celebrities into inhospitable environments to see how they would cope. He was eliminated from the competition just days before a mid-air helicopter crash which tragically killed 10 people, including several contestants. He now works as a pundit and a sports consultant in his native France.

Thierry Henry has moved into coaching and punditry after retirement (Image: Alamy)
Thierry Henry has moved into coaching and punditry after retirement (Image: Alamy)

Thierry Henry

Arguably Arsenal's greatest ever player, Henry spent eight years with the Gunners between 1999 and 2007 before leaving to join Barcelona in 2007. After three years in Catalonia, Henry moved on to MLS side New York Red Bulls but returned to Arsenal for a short-lived loan spell in 2012. After retiring in 2014, Henry moved into punditry with Sky Sports, a role he combined while coaching in Arsenal's academy. He was later appointed assistant coach to Belgium manager Roberto Martinez in 2016 before becoming head coach of Ligue 1 side Monaco in 2018. He was sacked after just over a year and later took charge of MLS side Montreal Impact, remaining with the club until 2021. Henry has since rejoined the Belgium coaching set-up and recently became a minority investor in Italian second division side Como.

Nwankwo Kanu

Nigerian icon Kanu joined Arsenal in 1999 and would spend five seasons with the Gunners. He later joined West Brom before spending the final six years of his career with Portsmouth, retiring from professional football in 2012. In 2014, he underwent successful corrective surgery on a congenital heart defect, having previously set up the Kanu Heart Foundation to help treat children in Africa with similar issues. He has also set up an international football academy in Lagos, with the aim of supporting talented young footballers in Nigeria.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Football, Arsenal, Premier League, Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, Patrick Vieira

Rory O'Callaghan
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