Trouble for Berhalter as USA lose to Canada for first time in 34 years

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Alphonso Davies and Lucas Cavallini scored to end USAs 17-match unbeaten streak against their northern rivals

Caribbean

The US mens soccer team lost to Canada for the first time in 34 years, allowing second-half goals to Alphonso Davies and Lucas Cavallini in a 2-0 defeat on Tuesday night in the Concacaf Nations League.

A little over two years after the Americans failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup by losing to Trinidad & Tobago, they saw their 17-match unbeaten streak against their northern neighbors come to an end.

Davies turned in a cross from Scott Arfield. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen put a palm up to block Davies shot but the ball still dropped over the line as Canadas players rushed to join Davies for a raucous celebration. Cavallini added a goal in the 90th-minute for Canada, beating Steffen to the near post with a low shot.

Christian Pulisic had a point-blank shot saved by goalkeeper Milan Borjan in the 51st minute. The US, coming off last weeks opening 7-0 home rout of Cuba, had nine wins and eight draws against Canada since a 2-0 friendly defeat in Vancouver in April 1985.

Canada are trying to climb into the top six in the region in Fifa rankings, which will be used next summer to determine the nations in the hexagonal that will produce the three direct qualifiers from the North and Central American and Caribbean region for the 2022 World Cup.

The U.S. and Canada meet again next month in Florida, and the US face Cuba four days later.

The USA coach, Gregg Berhalter, made four changes, bringing in Steffen, right-back DeAndre Yedlin, central defender Aaron Long and midfielder Michael Bradley. Yedlin made his first international appearance since March after recovering from groin surgery.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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How Would You Like $2 Million to Steal Elvis’ Coffin?

Wednesday, August 24, 1977

Thing was, none of them had given much of a fuck about Elvis while he was alive.

When you got right down to it, all Dead Elvis meant by the last week of summer was a congested Memphis, what with all the out-of-towners and news vans bunched together at the gates of Graceland to pay their respects and leave behind bouquets and teddy bears.Shit was everywhere, just take a look on the TV.

What they were always sayingfifty thousand Elvis fans cant be wrong?News claimed over thirty thousand of those fans showed up, just to wait in line, see his body laid out at the Memphis Funeral Home. Rumor was that a few of the Beatles had even flown in all the way from England. Burt Reynolds and Ann-Margret, too. President Carter had to call in the National Guard, for Chrissakes.

Raymond Bubba Green wondered who was supposed to clean up all that shit. Taxpayer money, or cons handed Graceland details as Community Service.

To Bubba, there was only one thing that Dead Elvis meant: money.

The way the man from Cincinnati told it, it sounded like the King of Rock and Roll was worth more dead than aliveor at the very least, his body seemed to pay by the pound.

Bubba Green, who at 25 had been expelled or suspended from every school hed ever attended throughout Tennessee, had grown accustomed to a life in and out of county lock-up, usually for selling drugs or for using them. By August 1977, he had grown more than accustomed to living for heroin, the same drug that had killed his Rhonda less than a year ago.

Theyd met right after Bubbas stint in Angola, that Louisiana state penitentiary named for the plantation and cotton fields that once occupied the land. Never married but thick as the thieves they were long enough for the State of Tennessee to label them as common-law. It had been Rhonda turned Bubba on to the harder drugsthe chippingBubba first figuring if she was going to be doing it, better she be supervised than unsupervised.

While Bubba was finishing up another jail stint, Rhonda took off for Dallas.When he was sprung, Bubba got word shed been raped and killed in a roadside motel room, left to be found the next morning by housekeeping.

We was not as good for each other as we should have been, Bubba told people later, but regardless, you know, I loved her.

Back on the street by August of77, Bubba hadnt much time for grieving. Let the world mourn Elvis, let him mourn Rhonda when he could. He had bonds to make, and Rhonda had taken what little money was left when she split for Dallas.

Bubba was thinking about just thatthe girl, the money, the debtwhen Blue Barron called him up Wednesday afternoon.

Bubba, you looking to make some money? Blue was a local bondsman Bubba had come to know all too well. He knew Bubba was looking to make some money, knew he was always looking.

Good, said Blue. Meet me at the Luau.

Like everyone in Memphis, Bubba Green knew the gaudy, Polynesian-themed exterior of the Dobbs House Luau on Poplar Avenue. Its sugary, fake island food was cheap and popular with the local college kids and the students from East High School across the street. He parked his motorcycle and, once inside, let his eyes adjust to the dim lighting of the large dining area.

Tiki torches flickered around the tourists lined up at the buffet. Mounted wood carvings shaped into sinister grins and framed stills of Elvis in Blue Hawaii were mounted along the walls. Blue Barron was seated at a family-sized wooden table under hanging plants and bamboo tufts. He was sitting next to another man. This one Bubba didnt recognize. White, looked big, husky, although he was sitting. Both men had their hands folded on the table top. They watched Bubba walk in and waited while he pulled his trucker cap low and sat down across from both. Neither spoke until Bubba was settled.

Are you interested in making a million dollars?It was the big one beside Blue, the stranger. He said it more than he asked it.

Bubba didnt know if hed heard that number right, looked at Blue, who just nodded.

I am mostly certainly interested in making a million dollars, Bubba said.

There was a pause before the large man leaned in.Well, what would you do for two million dollars?

Bubba could hear it now in his speechhe was definitely a Yankee. Well, sir, Bubba said, my mama aint safe for two million dollars.

The man said he was from Cincinnati. Just about all he said, so Bubba thought of him as just thatMr. Cincinnati.

Bubba Green followed Mr. Cincinnati down Union Avenue to the Holiday Inn, the one in walking distance to Beale. There, he parked his bike on the side, saw the man lumber up the metal staircase leading up to the second story of the two-story hotel, then unlocking the door to one room and standing outside the threshold for Bubba to see him. Got any weapons on you? Mr. Cincinnati asked, raising Bubbas arms up in a frisk just inside the door.

Yessir, a knife, Bubba said, making eye contact and slowly handing over a butterfly knife from his right back pocket.

Wait here, the man said, pointing for Bubba to take a seat on the edge of the sparse rooms twin-side bed. Bubba folded his hands on his lap and studied the green carpet and the ugly gold geometric shapes in the design, the white Venetian blinds, the writing table: an ashtray loaded with Mr. Cincinnatis cigarette butts and a small Holiday Inn stationery pad and matching pen.Crumpled balls of the stationery littered the desk.

He listened to the sounds of Mr. Cincinnati in the bathroom, not sure what was going on inside but hearing movement like the shower curtain being slid, followed by some exhausted grunting. The man emerged, each hand clutching an identical brown suitcase.He tossed both onto the bed behind Bubbas back. Look here, he said, flipping a case open.

Bubba had already decided the money had to be counterfeit.All that cash in one place? Had to be fake.

Bubba stood beside him, on his toes to crane over the larger mans shoulder.He stepped aside for Bubba to see: maps and large, full-color photographs, mostly aerial views of Shelby County. It was easy for him to make out the shape of Memphis, the grid of its arteries punctuated by the muted tint of bayous and the blue wall of the Mississippi River to the west. There were more papers stacked underneath, and Bubba caught on to the bold type at the bottom of one enlarged, color map. Forest Hill Cemetery. The name was familiar, Bubba remembered it from the news.

Mr. Cincinnati pulled out tighter diagrams of the cemetery property, these with hand-drawn lines linking A and B points. White tape lines met at a specific mausoleum in the center.

The man began to sift through the other contents, handing Bubba papers in bunches, explaining as he went along. There were copies of receipts for a casket weighing 948 pounds; a nine-pound brass lock made special in Oklahoma City; the dimensions of a large, plexiglass bubble. Take a look through these, he said. Bubba leafed through the stack and the man bent to open the other case. Look here, he said and lifted the lid.

Bubbas eyes nearly teared up.He was looking down at stacks of paper-belted hundred-dollar bills, each belt marked with 1,000 in black, felt-tip pen.

Before Mr. Cincinnati uttered another word, Bubba had already decided the money had to be counterfeit.All that cash in one place? Had to be fake. If not, this meeting was some kind of sting, Blue setting him up for another skip of his, needing an easy fall-guy. Who did he know, or who had he borrowed from who could rope him into some RICO thing?

Bubba had served enough time, he decided hed never be anyones fall-guy.

But he also considered the bills looked real enough to pass along on the street.Rent, smack, bonds, and a ticket out of Memphis.

He felt Mr. Cincinnatis eyes on him, watching him look down at the money. If all that money is real, Bubba now thought, this Yankee is carrying it around, he ought to be more afraid of more than just my little old knife.

Im going to ask for 10 million dollars in ransom for the body, the man said.He was cool, calm, and collectedeven the way he said the words like ransom and the body, like they was everyday words in a normal, everyday sentence.

Right in that there briefcase was a million dollars in belted bills, Mr. Cincinnati explained. It, along with another briefcase just like it, he went on, was all Bubbasbut only if he could execute a single task: smuggle the body of Elvis Aaron Presley out of its final resting placethe little cemetery just off Elvis Presley Boulevard.

Forest Hills Cemetery, Lot #796A; about four and a half miles from Graceland.

The mausoleum constructed for Elvis Presley was a massive building, more than double the size of the single-family shack in Tupelo, Mississippi, that had been his childhood home. This was a monumentairy rooms housing six vaults, a palace of many chambers. Elvis was the one directly to the left, Corridor Z: 9 feet long and 27 inches high. All white, columns and tile. You walked in, all you heard was your own footsteps and breathing, the echoes of eternity billowing throughout a maze of granite and marble.

On August 18, the burial started with a long procession down the street bearing Elvis namea white hearse leading 17 white limousines, all booked at a moments notice by Elvis daddy, Vernon Presley himself. Police had to carry away screaming fans attempting to charge his sons hearse on foot. The copper coffin, weighing nearly a thousand pounds, was carried by the six people who were the closest the performer had to friends: road manager Joe Esposito, members of Elvis entourage, the self-proclaimed Memphis Mafia, and Dr. George NichopoulousDr. NickElvis longtime personal physician, known to get the King anything required for nearly twenty years of maladies: road fatigue, dehydration, high blood-pressure, and the twisted colon that brought on the fatal heart attack.

Before the crypts gates were locked, a cylinder with Elvis' name, birth, and death dates was placed in the casket, ensuring easy identification during the Rapture.

A small service was held at the mausoleum for a select group of family and professional VIPs, those who had known Elvis Aaron Presley in real life. They, too, were enough in number to line up for hours. Vernon was the last out, kissing the coffin and promising his famous son that Daddy would be with him soon.

Vernon saw to it that Elvis was buried wearing a white suit and a blue shirt, and had personally brought his sons beloved TCB ring into the mausoleum to slide on his finger. Between the booking of the limos, the custom casket, and the all-important emblematic ring, Vernon had demonstrated that his son wasnt the only Presley who could take care of business in a flash. Nine-year-old Lisa Marie helped her grandfather place a metal bracelet on her fathers lifeless wrist. Lastly, before the crypts gates were locked, a cylinder with Elvis' name, birth, and death dates was placed in the casket, ensuring easy identification during the Rapture. Elvis hated waiting in lines.

The crowd long gone, five workmen then cut through the three-thousand floral bouquets strewn among the lawn and entered Elviss tomb. They went in pushing a wheelbarrow full of sand and carrying a five-gallon bucket of water and cement, churning into a double slab of concrete to seal the crypt.They then covered it all over with a large marble sheet, Elvis name and lifespan to be chiseled later.

Like every other newscaster in Memphis, Russell Ruffin covered the death of Elvis Aaron Presley, just as he had covered every related update to come out of Graceland since word of the death first broke. That day, Russ and his crew had been two hundred miles outside Memphis, covering a routine legislative meeting that dispersed as soon as a civic employee entered the boardroom to announce Elvis had just been pronounced dead over at Memphis Baptist. Russ led the caravan back to WMC-TV Memphis Midtown studios on Union Avenue.

After moving down from Nashville in late 1975, the 36-year-old Ruffin learned quickly that working for the NBC Memphis station would mean covering just about anything having to do with the citys favorite son. Not that he was complaining; Russ had grown up an Elvis fan himself, seeing Jailhouse Rock in theaters as a kid and painting sideburns on the sides of his face, strutting them around school before puberty allowed the real thing to grow in.

Around the newsroom, Russ was privy to all the Presley gossip that long predated the death. It had been rampant throughout Memphis pretty much Elvis entire career, as hed bought Graceland only a year after signing with RCA in 1957. Superstardom in a year, and with it, one of those heavenly mansions Jesus mentioned.

Russ was quickly told the one about Elvis presumably breaking up a real bar fight right here in town, telling a shocked drunkard, Why dont you pick on someone your own size? just like in one of his own movies. He then followed up on sightings of the King flying over Graceland in a private plane, surveying his kingdom below and amused at the sight of the crowd, unaware he was watching from above. Russ had looked into rumors Elvis had nearly been arrested for driving a go-kart down Elvis Presley Boulevard, saved only from the indignation of handcuffs by flashing the badge given to him by Richard Nixon.Elvis always had it on him.

And then there were all the Cadillacs. Russ covered each of those, too.

Russ had arrived in Memphis just in time to cover the third of Elvis widely-publicized stays in Memphis Baptist Hospital, always under the banner of road fatigue or exhaustion. The truth about the prescription drug addiction would only come out later during Dr. Nicks trialthe scandalous affair finding Nick forever branded a pharmaceutical rubber-stamp for high profile patients like the late Presley and his darker contemporary, Jerry Lee Lewis.

It was during that stay in Memphis Baptist that the King got the bug to bestow his riches upon select members of an adoring public. See, if Elvis saw you on TV and didnt like you, hed pull out the small revolver always in his right boot and blast a hole right through the screen projecting your moving image. But if he saw you and he liked you, liked your face, then Elvis would pick up the gold phonethe one next to the couchand dial a few numbers, have a new car sent to your house. That July, hed bought a total of 13 Cadillacs from the local Madison dealership, then sent them out to random worthy citizens throughout Memphis. With love, Elvis Presley.

Or so Russ had heard. He was still working as a general correspondent for the network, hadnt made weekend anchor just yet, the day Elvis called up the station room and asked for him by name.

Russ snatched the phone from his station managers hand, immediately recalling the one about Elvis buying some lucky Denver news anchor a brand new Eldoradohis reward for airing a human interest piece on him, making the performer sound more like Mother Teresa.

Mr. Ruffin, an unfamiliar voice spoke back to him. Joe Esposito here. Mr. Presley is next to me and he really enjoyed that piece you did You did a great job demonstrating his generosity

Presley had handed the receiver to his loyal road manager before Russ could get on the line. Insult to injury: the Cadillac wasnt for any WMC-TV anchor.No, Elvis wanted the address for a girl Russ had interviewed earlier that day, one going through hard enough times she deserved a new Eldorado.

You wouldnt happen to have her address, now would you, Mr. Ruffin? Elvis sure would appreciate it.

Might as well get a story out of it. Russ had grabbed a mic and a cameraman, rushed to Memphis Baptist anyway. They got as far as Elvis private door, eye-to-eye with an off-duty cop and Esposito himself. He haggled for a few minutes of taping, promising a piece for that evenings broadcast: something about the outpouring of flowers, cards and, yes, teddy bears, all Elvis fans had been sending.

Good enough for Esposito, but Elvis was a little too tired at the moment to talk to the camera. Russ ended up reporting from beside the door, while over his shoulder, Elvis bare feet dangled off the edge of the bed, out-of-focus.

That was a year ago. By August 1977, Russ had earned a second title as weekend anchor and was a recognizable face around Memphis. Recognizable enough for an FBI informant to obtain his home phone number, letting him know someone was planning to steal Elvis Presleys corpse later that week.

Thursday, August 25, 1977

Two days wasnt all that much time for Bubba to plan for such a large-scale body-snatch, but it looked like Mr. Cincinnati had done his homework, making it all that much easier. He had a few names to get the ball rolling and would use his own promised payment for deferred expensesincluding the team he would need. Giving it some thought, he had the makings of a skeleton crew before the day was out.

He knew a safe-cracker, one who owned a set of cutting torches that could get through the mausoleums iron railing. If memory served, Mike also had his own acetylene torches and oxygen tanks, like those scuba divers go out in the islands. Over the phone, he had tipped Bubba to an appliance store downtown, said they didnt keep such a close watch on their loading docks early in the day.He could hotwire one of the appliance truckswould be ideal, pick up whatever the hell it was Bubba needed help lifting.

He promised Mike 75 grand but considered upping it to as much as an even hundred if all worked out and Bubba was feeling generous. He considered the fact they still needed two additional sets of hands to get the casket from the crypt and into the truck box. Two more workers meant further dipping into Mr. Cincinnatis briefcase. But Bubba had seen on the news that it took four pallbearers to carry Elvis casket; scaling back to only four was pushing it, he knew, but no way around it. Hed have to pay off three.

There was another old boy from the neighborhood, always needed cash for junk. Bruce Nelson was five years older than Bubba. They had scored together, for a while during the Rhonda years. They hadnt spoken since Bubba had come back to Memphis, but he called him up, offered him 40 grand right over the phone. Maybe 60, same conditions as Mike.

Counting it out in his head, Bubba told himself he wasnt necessarily being greedy. If he was in line to score two million for putting everything together, no reason he was expected to give it all away. He considered the outstanding bonds, the ones Blue Barron knew this type of one-time score would cover, and then some.

After that, Bubba thought, he would contact a few smugglers he knew from Angola. Theyd be heading to the Caribbean once they got out, he remembered, and remembered the offer was open to sail along.Get him far away from Memphis and its ghosts.

For that, Bubba needed every cent he could squeeze.

Bubba ended his Thursday night with a beer, knowing he had a well-equipped box man in place, and some needed extra muscle. All he needed now was a wheelman, the getaway driver to high-tail them out of the cemetery, allowing Mike to casually join the other truckers on the freeway, their thousand-pound cargo secure in the box.

Bruce suggested Bubba contact Ronnie Lee Adkins. Bubba recognized the name from high school. They had never been friends, Ronnie was a year behind.

Bruce vouched for him, handed his home number to Bubba.

Friday, August 26, 1977

Want to tell me where were going?

Ronnie Lee Adkins, behind the wheel of his beige Chrysler, Bruce Nelson in the passenger seat. Bubba Green sat alone in the back, watching the storefronts and street signs along Elvis Presley Boulevard through the window on his left.Ronnie looked up at the rear-view mirror, waiting for a response.

Just drive and Ill tell you where to go, Bubba said, not looking up when he said it.

Ronnie Lee Adkins had been the first to show up at the chosen meeting pointthe parking lot of a laundromat on Unionhis Chrysler idling as Bubba and Bruce pulled up along either side on their bikes. The men got in silently, Bruce finally saying, Howre you, brother, once the doors were shut.From the backseat, Bubba studied the back of Ronnie Lee Adkins head, watched his hands stay gripped on the wheel even while parked. He thought this was a good sign, a solid first impression. He didnt mention the fact that he recognized Ronnie from school.

'Bubba, I gotta ask you. We been circling Elvis Presleys cemetery for any particular reason?'

Bubba determined not to reveal to Bruce or Ronnie exactly where they were going just yet. Both had agreed to the job based on the money, tonights mystery tour being part of the deal. He was playing close to the chest, and thats exactly why his plancobbled together in less than 48 hourswas going to work out just fine. He was playing it smart for once. Hell, hed only needed Mr. Cincinnatis map of the cemetery interior and the casket schematics. Other than that, Bubba knew the streets of Memphis good as anyone else.

So far, it looked like Ronnie Lee Adkins did tooand he took directions just fine. Bubba told him to turn onto the expressway, then sat back and folded his hands in his lap. He watched the Memphis streets pass by, all lit up, as quiet as the city gets, then went over the steps again in his head.

Mike would be sitting tight in the appliance truck on Route 69Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expresswaywaiting in the shadow of the Kerr Avenue underpass just west of the cemeterys rear entrance. His industrial cutters and locksmith gear were stashed in the trucks cargo box, along with a mobile generator just in case the trucks battery couldnt supply enough juice to drill through the concrete.

As soon as Mike saw the Chrysler, he would park at Forest Hills west entrance, while the other three went around to Elvis Presley Boulevard on the east side. Theyd hop the fence on either side of the property, then Mike would use his flashlight to help them all meet in the middle. According to the map, Elvis crypt was in the center.

Only Mike was told the last part of Bubbas 48-hour plan. First thing tomorrow morning, hed call the man from Cincinnati through Blue Barron, have him meet in the parking lot of Poplar Plaza Shopping Center just after dawn.

Mr. Cincinnati, Bubba told Mike, would be bringing those briefcasesboth of them.

Ronnie took the car onto Elvis Presley Boulevard. Again he looked up into the rear-view mirror. Where from here? he asked.

Eyes still out the window, Bubba mumbled to keep circling around Kerr Avenue and Hernando Road, keep a lookout for the appliance truck.

Half a dozen passes already the last half-hour. No Mike. No truck. More circles. An hour passed. Bubba tugged on the brim of his trucker cap. Where the fuck was he?

You got a way to call your boy, check in on him? Ronnie asked.

Naw, Bubba said, giving a quick glance away from the passing streets.He dont get that truck, we just try again tomorrow.

Ronnie looked over at Bruce for a response, got nothing. He turned south on Hernando, all three men in the car glancing to their right, checking for a big, white truck one more time. Again nothing, just the darkness of the overpass shadow.

Bubba, I gotta ask you, Ronnie said, one arm over the other on the wheel as he made the turn passed Forest Hills iron gates. We been circling Elvis Presleys cemetery for any particular reason?

Before hed been handed a seemingly never-ending stream of Elvis Presley assignments, Russ Ruffins usual stories included community affairs and local politics. Both areas went hand-in-hand with the Memphis crime beat, ensuring not only the guards at Graceland knew Russ face on-sight, but so did the cops and bailiffs at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center, local District Court, and the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Hed always dealt well with law enforcement. Back in Nashville, Russ had covered the local polices acquisition of their first Kevlar vests. The broadcast got him an invitation to the Press Clubs Gridiron show, an annual event for statewide news VIPs, all gathered together in a grand ballroom to rib each other, safely out of the public eye. Taking the stage, Russ demonstrated the bulletproof vest using a starters pistol.

Word spread about Russ Press Club appearance, and he got coerced by a network cameraman to recreate the stunt out in the studio parking lot. The cameraman was itching to test out the stations new video camera unit and already had a gun in the trunk of his car. They loaded a blank, but the velocity of the blastall the finite debris hidden in the fresh Nashville air, instantly ignited and shot at the speed of soundsent Russ reeling, slamming him against a brick wall.

The clip found its way onto one of Dick Clarks blooper specials. So far, that was the extent of Russ national exposure.

He moved to Memphis the following year, having taken enough bullets for one team. That November, he dodged a larger one. A few buddies linked through his NBC affiliate invited him to French Guyana, where they were covering California Congressman Leo Ryans visit to the Peoples Temple Agricultural ProjectJonestown.

'Hey man, dont use my picture. Im undercover.'

Russ knew it was a big story and packed his bags. He made it to the airport but missed his flight. None of his buddies returned.

After that, covering news out of Graceland didnt seem so bad, or covering the Memphis crime beat. It was never boring, and there were benefits to all the sheriffs knowing who he was, he could be trusted. Russ ended up with a lot of tips that way, all the cops and robbers both recognizing his face.

Like the first week of August, when Russ and a cameraman were on a routine assignment outside Shelby County Court.

He had his shirt-sleeves rolled up, the mic in his hand, watching the fresh arrests being escorted out of the courthouse. After all these months, Russ had started recognizing some of the faces. One in particular looked familiara white twentysomething male, sporting a days-old scruff and a dirty pair of jeans and tee shirt. Looked like a drop-out, his long hair falling down his face.

The kid stopped right in front of Russ, leaned in close to his ear. Hey man, he whispered. Dont use my picture. He nodded to the cameraman. Im undercover.

He hadnt seen him since, but Russ never forgot a face. Or a voice.

The last Friday of August, Russ was home with his wife. Penny had dinner ready just as soon as he had walked in, and they were already clearing the plates when the kitchen phone rang. He wasnt expected back at the station until early the next afternoon and was looking forward to a quiet night at home.

Is this Mr. Ruffin from the TV news?The mans voice was familiar, but Russ couldnt place it. I had to get your number from the station, the man said. I told them I had an Elvis story for you.

Another Elvis tipit never seemed to end.

Well, sure, Russ said, looking over at Penny drying the dishes alone. How may I help you, sir?

There was a pause on the line before the caller spoke again. Well, you helped me out a few weeks back and I thought Id help you out now, tooyou know, with a story.

Russ craned over to the countertop and reached for a pen and small pad, the phone cord twisting around his body. And how is that? I helped you out?

You were at Shelby Court a few weeks back, the man said. I asked you not to use my picture. I was undercover, working with Memphis PD

There it was, the drop-out with the hair. Of course.

Well, the man continued, my name is Ronnie Lee Adkins. You were good to me, and I want to give you a scoop on somethingsomething going down at Forest Hills Cemetery tomorrow night.

Saturday, August 27, 1977

If this Adkins fellow was telling the truth, Russ considered, that gang of misfits better be strongand be bringing plenty of gear for the heavy lifting.

He had said as much to Penny, placing the phone back in the cradle and reading her his notes from the strange phone call. For the past two weeks, Russ had covered the death of Elvis Presley from every possible angle, including the interment at Forest Hill. He knew intimately the near-impossibility of anyone getting through those gates, let alone driving off with a casket of that weight.

He turned to Penny. These fellas would need a crane to pull this off.

Russ also knew from contacts within the Memphis PD that Shelby County deputies were working in rotation, guarding the mausoleum itself.

He hadnt enough time to wait for Saturdays shift. Right after the call with Ronnie Lee Adkins, Russ dialed his closest squad contact, Captain Tommy Smith. Listen, Tommy, I just want to make sure that you guys are aware of this, Russ had said.Before I run with this, I need to make sure Im not holding any information that could get one of your boys hurt. He repeated everything hed been told by Ronnie Lee Adkins. When he was through, Smiths answer surprised him enough that Penny froze cross the room just seeing his own reaction.

Yep, the grave robbery? Captain Smith had said. We know all about it.

Russ called ahead to his station manager at WMC-TV Memphis studios and requested a crew for a live feed later that night.

While working in Nashville, it was routine to chase down hot leads with the use of 16mm film; as an anchor here in Memphis, Russ now benefited from access to the NBC affiliates more modern equipment, namely its expensive live van.Still, hed have had to call dibs on it, since there was only the one for the entire network.

By the time he punched into his Saturday shift, Russ been on the phone with Memphis PD all day, pumping the officers for updates and keeping his name associated with the exclusivity of the story. The latter had proved easier than expected: You know, since I brought this to you guys, I was hoping we would be allowed to get up close, watch the arrest

The cops had agreed, but by Saturday afternoon, even they werent sure of the break-ins possible time. Theyd heard from their informant, but there had been no word on the time.

Not knowing didnt endear the story any further to Russ station heads, none of whom wanted their only mobile unit wandering the streets of Memphis with no guarantee of a scoop.

Russ made a deal with the manager: the stations best cameraman, Bernie, drove a white Crown Vicone that could pass for an unmarked squad vehicle.Russ grabbed him on his way out the door at 9 p.m. Hed ride to Forest Hill Cemetery with Bernie, and the mobile van would follow behind.

'Bubba! Dont move, man! Somethings wrongwe aint alone!'

Russ looked at his watch. He had the live crew for an hour and a half. After that, any grave robberies would have to be taped and edited for a later airing.

Climbing into the passenger seat of Bernies Crown Vic, Russ tuned the newsrooms communal police scanner to the familiar Memphis PD frequency, prepared to sit back and listen intently for signs of life.

He told Bernie to head towards Elvis Presley Boulevard.

Bubba Green had no choice but to consider the previous nights attempt as a dry run; no reason to tell the others it was a bust.At least now all three knew the lay-out: the streets and the checkpoints.

It was nearly midnight when, again in the backseat of Ronnie Lee Adkins Chrysler, Bubba finally spotted the appliance truck in the shadow of Route 69.

Bubba had felt furious all day. Seeing Mike in place at the underpass, the anger finally began to subside. He hadnt been able to get him on the phone until late last night, Mike apologizing, going on and on that the appliance store employees had still been working the loading dock late into the night. He couldnt have lifted any of the trucks until today, he insisted, but tonight should be fine. Sorry, brother

He had Mike recite the plan back to him over the phone, then quizzed him on the smaller details. Satisfied, Bubba hung up and called the other two, letting them know tonight was a go.

Ronnie careened off of Hernando Road south towards Forest Hill. Bubba turned his head and watched the headlights on the appliance truck flash on and off, as Mike took off the opposite direction, north on Person Avenue.

Theyd worked it out so Mike would bust his way into the cemetery through the back. Hed find Elvis massive mausoleum first, then signal the others with his military high beam. The assortment of cutting tools would be more than enough to bust the iron gate and all that marblebut theyd still have to cut their way through the fence to haul the casket itself out and into the truck.

There would be no way to cut through that undetected while they were inside doing their business, as any passing car would see the truck waiting by the west entrance. Bubba figured theyd have to bust it last on the way out.

Ten minutes to midnight. Bubba leaned forward, pointed to the coming turn street. Pull up right here like last night, he said to Ronnie, then to both Ronnie and Bruce, Wait hereIll hop in first, make sure Mikes in place.

Bubba pulled his cap low on his head as he exited to the roadside. He looked around, then hopped the cemetery fence.

Russ knew he was losing his chance at a live feed after the first half-hour had passed. It was too quiet, parked there in Bernies car outside the Forest Hill gates, even with the staccato bursts of muffled directives shooting from the scanner. With the car radio off so they could listen to the police communications, it was the first time Russ hadnt heard so much as a second of Elvis music in the past two hours.

Russ, did you hear that last part?Bernie reached over and turned up the scanners volume nob.

What did I miss, Bernie?

A Chrysler was just pulled over near the cemetery I think I heard an officer on the two-way ask his dispatcher if an undercover was in the car.

Russ bolted upright.What did he say?

Very possibly.

It had to be them. Russ rolled down the window of the Crown Victoria and saw Hernando Avenue coming up ahead. Were going to lose the van any minute now, he said, his voice against the wind. Lets head towards the cemetery and keep an eye.

Bernie was back on Elvis Presley Boulevard in five minutes. He turned off the ignition.

It was nearly 10:30 p.m. Bernie, Russ said, lets keep that scanner cranked until they call back the van.

Bubba hit the ground running.

Hed instructed Ronnie to turn the car off, not let it idle. Best be safely inside the cemetery and set up with Mike at the crypt before hollering for the others.Scaling the cemeterys gate was easy enough, Bubba landing on his hands and one knee bent. The felt the grass cool under his hands and through the rips in his jeans. He looked up into the darkness and the sea of headstones. His eyes adjusted, and the stones slowly glowed a dull, pale gray against the black of the grass and the towering oaks and maples over a century old. Mikes flashlight would be simple to spot through the 200-acre abyss.

According to Mr. Cincinnatis aerial schematics, Elvis mausoleum should be west from his entrance over the fence. Staying low to the ground, Bubba looked around, inching his way towards the cemeterys center.

He froze in place. Was that movement up ahead? Bubba didnt see the beams of a flashlight, nothing but the dark swaying of the trees against the lighter darkness of the sky. But he could swear something had moved among the darkened shapes up ahead.

Finally, a lighta flashlight.

Mike setting up camp at the wrong fucking grave

He watched then as the small white beam vanishedthen appeared again, off to the left. He froze again. It was unmistakablenow there were two flashlights.

Either Mike wasnt alone, or it wasnt Mike at all.

There was no more time for silence: Bubba turned around on the spot, burning his knees against the ground as he scurried back towards the fence a hundred yards away.

Bubba!

He looked up, seeing the outline of Ronnie and Bruce in front of the gates railings and against the lights of the street behind. Theyd climbed their way inside, were both whooping and hollering, their hands in the air, making a scene.

Bubba! Ronnie called out again, his hands cupped to his mouth. Dont move, man! Somethings wrongwe aint alone!

Bubba climbed to his feet and ran towards the fence, noise and chaos be damned. Run, boys! he yelled, following behind as all three hopped back onto the street and made for the Chrysler. Ronnie ran around and took his place behind the wheel, gunning the engine before all the doors had slammed shut.

Just go, man, Bubba barked.Go straight and just keep on goin!

Ronnie took a right onto Person Avenue instead, lightning fast.

What you doin, man? Bubba cried.I said straight!

Didnt matter now. The beige Chrysler pulled onto Person, stopping short just as the inevitable came into the view for all three men: a barricade of at least half a dozen black and whites, all flashing their red and blue lights and cutting off any chance of passing through.

With them was an NBC news team.

For the better part of the last two hours, Russ had sat in the passenger seat of Bernies car, fidgeting with the wire of his mic, twirling it around his fingers like the tail of an animal. Every few minutes, Bernie double- and triple-checked the video camera on his lap.

As expected, the station had called back the mobile van. That was almost an hour and half ago. As they watched it drive off back to the network studios on Union, Russ and Bernie made themselves comfortable, both fearing a long stakeout.

Finally, five minutes after midnight, the fuzzy voice of a police two-way: Its going down.

Lets move! Russ said, unspooling the microphone wire between his fingers.Bernie revved the engine and sped to Elvis Presley Boulevard.

What with the lights and the shouting, Bubba couldnt tell just how many squad cars were actually settled in the trap, cutting off their escape. They all swarmed, taking each side of the Chrysler, pulling the boys out at once. All Bubba felt were the fists raining down.

Everything seeming to move in slow-motion, but those Miranda Rights being spouted, those were in real-time. As the officer spread Bubbas legs and laid his hands on top of the cars hood, he watched Ronnie being taken to one car and Bruce manhandled into another.

Bubba felt himself cuffed and thrown into the backseat beside Bruce. Through the window, Bubba watched Ronnie slink down in the backseat of the other vehicle.

Some reportera tall, blond fellow Bubba recognized from the weekend newswas aiming his microphone into Ronnies window, trying to get him to speak while some police were shouting at him to back off, step away from the vehicle. A cameraman was with him, the weight of a huge video unit pulling his shoulder slightly down. The two men looked tied together by electrical wires.

Bubba let out a defeated breath.There would be no money now, he knew.

There would be no Caribbean trip or paid-off bonds and loans. Matter of fact, now thered probably be a bunch more.

Fuck.Hed never get out of Memphis.

More reporters outside the window now, plus the cops and curious nobodies snooping arounda sea of snarls and grotesques. Bubba sucked wind back through his throbbing lungs slowly, each breath a little labored and deliberate.

While he focused on his breathing, Bubba wondered if Mike had gotten out of the cemetery all right, hoped he had hightailed it in the appliance truck and was already miles away. He hoped Mike would make it to Texas, where Mike claimed he had family and friends waiting for him with open arms.

'I aint no cop.' Ronnie said it low, his muscles tightened against the blade.

During the ride to Shelby County lockup, Bubba also wondered something else. Something like an itch that had been itching since Ronnie had taken it upon himself to break the silence of the night, yelling through that cemetery fence.

Bubba wondered why Ronnie was taken to a different car.

Then he wondered how Ronnie had somehow landed them directly into a barricade of waiting police cars.

POLICE CLAIM FOILING ELVIS BODYSNATCHERS!

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)Police on a stakeout at Forest Hill Cemetery captured four men after a chase Monday, foiling what authorities said was a plot to steal Elvis Presleys body and hold it for ransom.

But one of the men was freed for lack of evidence, the other three were charged with trespassing, and a police official said the plot might be hard to prove.

In a statement, Memphis police said information was received several days ago that a group of people was going to enter the cemetery, break into Presleys mausoleum, steal the body and try to ransom it.

Acting on the tip, police kept the mausoleum under watch.

On Saturday night, the statement said, suspects were seen near the cemetery but did not attempt to enter Forest Hill.Police were later informed, they said, that this had been a trial run.

The stakeout continued Sunday night, and early Monday morning, four suspects were arrested near the cemetery after having entered over the back wall, bypassing security guards, approached the mausoleum and shook the door when they were apparently frightened off.

Police Director E. Winslow Chapman said three of the men were arrested after a brief chase. The fourth was arrested at the emergency room in Baptist Hospital, where Presley was taken after he died on Aug. 16. Chapman said the fourth man apparently had sprained an ankle running from the cemetery.

Chapman said the police believe the men intended to use conventional burglary tools to break into the mausoleum, but he said no tools were recovered, although police searched the cemetery grounds and the route of the chase. The case against them would be weak without the tools for evidence, Chapman said.

Tuesday, August 30, 1977

Locked up again, facing felony charges of attempted grave robbery, body snatching, and trespassing.

A public defender had told Bubba in no certain terms: If it all stuck, grave-robbing would get him 99 years, but dont worrythe botched attempt would only get him 33.

Bubba thought: in the grand scheme of things, what the fuck was the difference?

The public defender went on, You could go up there and shoot an kill a guy, rather than let him testify against you, put your gun down, call the po-leece, tell 'em you just shot and killed 'em, come get 'ya, and youll get 30 years Or you can let him get on that witness stand, testify against you, and you get 33 yearsif they convict 'ya.

Bubba had made the error of asking what had happened to dear old Ronnie Lee Adkins. Lawyer told him, also in no uncertain terms: Leave that Adkins fella alone.

But that wasnt what Bubba heard. The way he saw it, the lawyer just confirmed Ronnie was worth more dead than alive.

Bruce knew where Ronnie lived, had his address written down. Having used what little money he had left to post bailBlue Barron always won in the endBubba went round to Bruce, told him the new plan, to be implemented immediately.

Were gonna put the fear of God into Ronnie, hed told Bruce. Let him think his life is on the line, he gets up on that stand and throws us all under a bus.

They rode over in Bruces car, playing it cool and getting Ronnie into the front seat of the car, in the passengers seat for once. Bubba got in back and instructed Bruce to drive them down Poplar Avenue all the way downtown.He told him not to stop until he could see the marshes and the Mississippi River out in front.

Parked, Ronnie felt cold steel come whip around under his chin.

You messed up real good, Bubba hissed, pressing the tip of his butterfly knife tight against Ronnies Adams apple. He ran it slow along the scratchy grain of Ronnies stubble. Real good, informing on the wrong people this time. Didnt you? he said.

Behind the wheel, Bruce kept a lookout for tourists. They came down here sometime to get a nice view of Mud Island. Ronnie kept his mouth tight, let Bubba keep talking. See, youre worth way more to me now dead than alive, Bubba said. Lawyer told me so. And I listen to the law, now on.

Bruce cracked the window. Near silence where they were, the wind through the marshes and the soft lapping of the shore nearby.

We got friends, Bubba said, his grip on the knife and its place at Ronnies jugular frozen still. And they got friends, and you know, friends of friends. Way I see it, youre in a no-win situation. You agree?

He loosened his grip just enough for Ronnie to slowly nod without cutting himself against the blade.

Well, thats good, he said, real good, Ronnie. So, heres what were going to do: were going to drive you up to Baptist Memorial Hospital, drop you off, and youre gonna tell them youre a Memphis City policeman suffering chest pains the last few days. But you hear me? You fucking tell them youre a cop.

I aint no cop.Ronnie said it low, his muscles tightened against the blade.

Dont matter to me, said Bubba. Not at this point. But youre gonna tell them that, get pinched for impersonation.

Why would I do that?We all already facing charges, man.

Bubba tightened his grip again. I want you discredited, got it? You even think about turning us out on that witness stand, I want you seen as a lying sack of shit whose word aint worth nothing. Your testimony wont be no good. I already know youre a liarbut I want it on fucking record youre one.

He paused, listened to the stillness surrounding the car. Seagulls hung over the river. I mean, he said, flicking the butterfly back into its sheath, theres more truth in that than anything else, right?

ELVIS RETURNS HOME!

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)In death, Elvis Presley returned to his mansion in much the same manner as he went in lifewith secrecy and tight security.

Two white hearses carried the bodies of Presley and his mother, Gladys Smith Presley, from Forest Hill Cemetery to the grounds of Graceland unannounced Sunday night.

The hearses, escorted by eight Memphis policemen and five Shelby County Sheriffs deputies, traveled south without disruption down Elvis Presley Boulevard, three miles from the cemetery to the mansion.

The Presley family received unanimous approval from zoning officials last week for the transfer. Lawyers for the family said security and privacy were reasons for the request as well as the inconvenience caused to other families with loved ones at the cemetery by Elvis crowds.

About 100 fans watched as the hearses entered the mansion grounds from the rear entrance shortly after 7 p.m.

Tuesday, October 4, 1977

The story ran on WMC-TV on Sunday morning. It wasnt the live feed Russ had envisioned, catching the grave robbers redhanded, but hed still gotten the scoop Ronnie Lee Adkins promised.

Russ observation that the Crown Victoria closely resembled an unmarked squad car proved correct: The cops had waved them right through the Forest Hill gates. At Elvis mausoleum, hed leapt out and quickly struck a pose with the mic, reporting the nights events against the mausoleums marble wall.They used the cars high-beams to light the shot. Russ then shot a clip inside Elvis private chamber.

Elvis grave would always remain the only part of the Graceland tour that was free of charge.

Spliced together with Bernies footage of Raymond Bubba Green, Bruce Nelson, and Ronnie Lee Adkins being carted away, the completed clip aired as Sundays lead story. Phone calls started almost immediately, Russ NBC parents and the National Enquirer within the first few hours of its airing.

The Enquirer should have known better than push Russ and Bernie to hand over even a single frame to a competitive news source. But when it came to the honchos at their parent network, any footage shot with studio equipment was up for grabs. They handed over the raw footage, seeing every NBC affiliate in America use the material for their own coverage on the story.

Forget taking a bullet on Dick Clarks blooper reel. On August 29, Russ finally reached a national audiencejust as he had promised the station managers.

As he had expected, new of the attempted theft of the Kings body quickly spread, especially in Memphis. Only weeks after Elvis had been tucked and shelved in his mink-lined crypt, the botched grave robbery proved another excuse for Elvis wide-reaching constituency to gather en masse around both Forest Hill and the locked gates of Graceland.

Also as he expected, Russ had to cover it all for WMC-TV Memphis: the arrests, the aftermath, the eventual arraignment and, finally that October, the most unexpected twist of it allthe dismissal.

It was months later that Russ was again at Shelby County District Court, watching in disbelief as a judge announced that Green, Nelson, and Adkins were to be set free, let go, the judge declaring Adkins as too unreliable a witness to even take his word at face value.

Only Russ knew Adkins had been the tipster, the informant the one to call him at home, for Chrissake. No one in law enforcement would say it in a courtroom, but Russ wondered if the judge been fed instructions to let Adkins walk, his clandestine status within the Memphis PD earning him some form of immunity.

Or, Russ also wondered, had someone gotten to the judge?

Russ never got the answer, but he did cover every detail of the grave robberys strange aftermath. The same week as the delinquent crews dismissal, Vernon Presley successfully circumvented the longstanding zoning codes in Shelby County, granting him permission for the legal transfer of his beloved son and wife, Gladys, back to Graceland. He wanted them home, under the shade of the trees in the backyard, right there beside Elvis swimming pool.

The Presley family later called it The Meditation Garden, even put up a plaque.

Later on, after Graceland later became Memphis greatest tourist attraction, drawing thousands of fans from around the world to take the tour, see his shag-carpeted living room and his famed white porcelain monkey, his gold Cadillac and personal jets parked outside, and his sequined jumpsuits and matching capes, all under glass next to a television set hed used for target practice Even then, Elvis grave would always remain the only part of the tour that was free of charge.

Elvis loved visitors.

Before he and Penny moved on to Denver a few years later, Russ Ruffin decided that MemphisElvis Memphishad been good to him.

Years later, long after his Memphis days, Russ remembered something.

He had been finishing up breakfast with Penny, thumbing through that mornings newspaper and saw an article that jogged loose memory from 1977: It was right before the dismissal at Shelby County Court.

That week in September, Russ had received another phone call at home and hadnt thought about it in over 20 years. When it had happened, however, he had half-expected the call to be from Ronnie Lee Adkins, since another hearing was coming up.

It had been a weekday, Russ remembered, Penny out running errands when the kitchen phone rang.

This Russ Ruffin from the TV?

It wasnt Ronnie, it was another voice, a new one only slightly familiar. It sure is, Russ said, What can I do for you?

There was a pause, the voice taking a deep breath before going on. Well, you know who I am, but we aint ever actually spoke Names Raymond Green.

Russ had watched Bubba Greens arraignment the previous week. Russ reached for his pad and pen. Well, hello there, Mr. Green. Yes, I do know your name, and Ive been covering everything about your case, as you may know.

I do, he said. Listen Just so you know, it aint nothing like you heard.

Russ didnt say a word, let the man continue.

You know, my story I mean, said Bubba Green. What you seen in the newspapers. Nothing like you heard. I got a story for youafter my hearing.

But after the hearing, Bubba Green was gone. So was Ronnie Lee Adkins.

Russ remembered all of that, sitting in his kitchen in Denver, reading the newspaper and tearing out an article to show Penny across the table.

The story in the paper was about a former FBI informant changing his name in Witness Protection. Ronnie Tyler.

FBI WITNESS: PRESLEY CLAN STAGED GRAVE-ROBBING

Informant says pop hatched plot to move Kings plot to Graceland

(WorldNetDaily) MEMPHIS, Tenn.

August 15, 2002

An FBI informant involved in a plot to steal Elvis Presleys body shortly after the rock idol died 25 years ago claims the Presley family staged the grave-robbing to persuade Memphis officials to move him from the public cemetery to Graceland, now a $15 million-a-year tourist attraction, a veteran FBI agent told WorldNetDaily.

The late Vernon Presley, the Kings father and executor of his estate at the time, wanted his son buried on mansion grounds, but it was not an area zoned for burials.

So three weeks after Elvis died of a heart attack, he had lawyers for the Presley estate petition the Memphis Shelby County Board of Adjustment for a zoning variance. They cited what they called an attempted theft of Presleys body several days earlier and the expense of round-the-clock security.

Three men were arrested Aug. 29, 1977, near the Forest Hill Cemetery mausoleum where Elvis was entombed in a 900-pound copper coffin. One of them was Ronnie Tyler, who later became an FBI informant.

Tyler had been in cahoots with a crooked deputy sheriff, who swooped down and captured the thieves, said Ivian C. Smith, former head of the FBIs Arkansas office. The scheme had been hatched after the Memphis board had refused the Presley familys request to bury Elvis at Graceland, he said.

The Memphis board on Sept. 28, 1977 OKd Presleys request to move his sons body to Graceland. And the singer, dressed in a white suit with dark-blue tie and light-blue shirt, was reburied there Oct. 2.

After the theft, the county made an exception to the lawand Tyler was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, said Smith.

AUTHORS NOTE ON SOURCES

This article was written with the aid of Russell Ruffin, who was generous enough to offer a comprehensive interview regarding his participation in the original arrests of Ronnie Lee Adkins, Raymond Green, and Bruce Nelson.

Likewise, the Shelby County Historical Commission was patient and helpful in supplying details and fact-checking for dates and details regarding the numerous events and media coverage of Elvis Presleys death and burial in August 1977.

Quotes and details regarding Raymond Green are courtesy of Tri-Marq Communications and WTMJ Television, Milwaukee, which provided the only existing transcripts of Greens initial interviews.

Ronnie Lee Adkins, now Tyler, remains an active informant for the FBI, and his background information and current whereabouts do not fall under the guidelines of the Freedom of Information Act.

Other sources include:

Guralnick, Peter. Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. Boston, New York, London, Little Brown and Company, 1999.

Smith, I. C. Inside: A Top G-Man Exposes Spies, Lies, and Bureaucratic Bungling Inside the FBI.Thomas Nelson Incorporated, Nashville, 2004.

Associated Press, Elvis Returns Home, October 4, 1977.

Associated Press, Police Claim Foiling Elvis Bodysnatchers, September 2, 1977.

McCabe, Scott. The Plot to Steal Elvis Body Gets Weirder, The Washington Examiner, August 28, 2012.

Sperry, Paul.FBI Witness: Presley Clan Staged Elvis Grave-Robbing, WorldNewDaily.com, August 15, 2002.

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Eni Aluko: We all have moments in life when our morals are called into question

When the striker called out racism in the England camp, it ended her international career. She explains why the fight was worth it

Bullying

Eniola Aluko is one of only 11 female footballers to have played more than 100 times for England. She has scored some of the Lionesses most memorable goals, was the first female pundit on Match Of The Day, and is a qualified lawyer, having graduated from Brunel University London with a first in 2008. But it is as a whistleblower that she is destined to be best remembered. And, like many whistleblowers, she has spent the subsequent years being rubbished by those she exposed.

Now she has written a memoir. They Dont Teach This is a fascinating examination of her multiple identities British and Nigerian, a girl in a boys world, footballer and academic, a kid from an estate with upper-middle-class parents, a God-fearing rebel. But the book is at its best when she reveals exactly what happened after she accused the England management team of racism, and the Football Association of turning a blind eye to it. Aluko does not hold back and few people from the football establishment emerge with their reputation intact.

Aluko now plays for Juventus in Italy, but we meet at her old stomping ground, Brunel. She has been delayed by traffic, which gives me time to explore the sports centre. On the wall are three huge, framed posters of Brunel alumni sporting legends. Guess who they are, I say to Aluko when she arrives. Mo Farah, definitely, she says instantly. And? Erm oh, Usain Bolt! Obviously! He trained here. And the third? She is stumped. Then she looks. Oh. My. God! It is a poster of her playing for England. Wow! Thats amazing. She looks genuinely thrilled.

Aluko has a small, mobile face with striking features big, brown eyes and a huge, ear-to-ear smile. When she is unhappy, she makes no attempt to hide it; her glare is as forbidding as the smile is winning. And there havent been many times over the past five years that Aluko has had reason to smile.

Eniola
Eniola Aluko playing for England against Germany at Wembley in November 2014. Photograph: Alamy

It all started in January 2014, barely a month after Mark Sampson took over as manager of the Lionesses. Sampson was 30 years old, an inexperienced coach who had never played professional football. At 28, Aluko was virtually an England veteran, a first-team regular and a popular member of the squad who had used her legal skills to champion teammates notably helping to draw up a new central contract for the team. The striker was also a conscientious player, always keen to improve her game.

Her desire to better herself led to her taking advantage of a new system that enabled players to watch back games and analyse their own performance, while hearing the audio from the management team. After a match against Finland, a 3-1 win for England in which Aluko had scored a goal and made another, she reviewed the footage. Aluko had been pleased with her performance which made it more shocking when she heard the audio. The goalkeeping coach Lee Kendall said: Eni is lazy as fuck, and: Shes not fit enough. Then, when I lost the ball, he said: Oh, fuck off, Eni, she tells me. She heard no disparaging remarks about other players, nor any positive comments when she scored and assisted a goal.

Aluko was confused. She was in the form of her life, with six goals in six games for England. And, more to the point, she says, she had never been called lazy before. At the time, I didnt think too deeply about what was being said. I was just like: why is this being said about me on a portal that everyone can access? Then I started thinking about where has this come from. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she became that there was a racial connotation. Look, lazy is a generic term. Anybody can be called lazy if youre not tracking back. But if youre black and youre called lazy, its different. Some words have real context to them, and this dates back to slavery times. In that split second, Im sure Lee Kendall didnt think about racial connotations, but thats what racism can be.

One coach spoke to her in a fake Caribbean accent. I was tempted to speak to him in a Scottish accent, despite knowing he was Welsh. Aluko is fully aware, as are most football fans of a certain age, how charged the word lazy is in relation to black footballers. In 2004, the former Manchester United manager Ron Atkinson was sacked as a pundit on ITV (and as a Guardian columnist) after a microphone picked him up saying the French defender Marcel Desailly is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick nigger. Aluko knew Kendalls comment bore no comparison, but she couldnt help thinking about it. She started to feel the management team had it in for her, but kept stumm. What Kendall had said was unpleasant, but it would be virtually impossible to prove it was anything more. If they didnt like her, she would show her worth on the pitch. And she did, finishing joint top scorer among all nations competing for qualification for the European Championships in 2015, with 13 goals.

But the comments continued now to her face. In November 2014, she told Sampson that her family was flying in from Nigeria for a friendly against Germany. He replied: Well, make sure they dont come over with Ebola. (Sampson denied saying this for a long time after.) Aluko says she laughed nervously but was left reeling. She told her England teammate Lianne Sanderson, but said she wasnt going to make a big deal of it. She wanted to focus on her football.

At one point, Kendall, a close friend of Sampson, started speaking to her in a fake Caribbean accent. It infuriated Aluko not least because she isnt from the Caribbean. I was often tempted to speak to him in a Scottish accent, despite knowing he was Welsh, just to make the point.

Eniola
Im an optimistic, positive person normally, but I was miserable during that time. Photograph: Perou/The Guardian

Then she started to notice other things happening to black members of the squad. In October 2015, Chelseas midfielder Drew Spence was called up to the England squad for the first time, for a trip to China. Spence told Aluko that, in a meeting of midfielders, Sampson turned to the newcomer and said: Havent you been arrested before, then? Four times, isnt it? Spence was the only non-white player in the room and has never been arrested. After making these remarks, Sampson never picked her again for England; she still has only two caps.

A few days later, the midfielder Jill Scott was feted when she won her 100th cap against Australia speeches were made, she captained the team, a video message was played from her family. In the same match, Sanderson won her 50th cap another considerable milestone, normally celebrated with a special shirt but this was ignored. Sanderson told Aluko she was devastated; with Alukos encouragement, she told Sampson how upset she was, but asked him not to make an issue of it in front of the team. The following day, he addressed the squad, said he had made a mistake in not acknowledging her 50th cap and presented her with a special shirt. Sanderson was never selected for England again.

While Sampson did not drop Aluko, he told her repeatedly that he couldnt rely on her, that she lacked stamina and heart, that she was selfish and didnt play for the team. After Aluko scored a hat-trick in a 10-0 thrashing of Montenegro, Sampson presented her with the ball, telling the team: We all know Eni is a pain in the arse, but she did well to score a hat-trick after I gave her the target of scoring five goals today.

Aluko was still reluctant to draw attention to Sampsons behaviour. As black players, you dont always want to be bringing these issues up. You want to just play football. You know that the accusations of playing the race card are going to come up. So I would bite my tongue. Id see the level of ignorance, roll my eyes and get on with it.

And so it continued. Aluko says the only thing that kept her going was her desperation to reach 100 caps and become the first British-African woman to do so. When it finally happened, in February 2016, the occasion was soured by Sampson. She says he refused to give her advanced notice she would be playing, so she could invite her family. Then, on the morning of the match, Sampson told her she wasnt in the starting 11 because he wanted to field his strongest team. In the end, he brought her on in the second half and the captain, Steph Houghton, handed her the captains band. But by then she was inconsolable.

Three months later, in May 2016, the FA invited Aluko to participate in a confidential culture review about her experiences as a black woman in the England team. She agreed to a phone interview in which she said that she felt demoralised, and that under Sampsons management her negative experiences outweighed the positive ones.

Twelve days later, she was visited by Sampson at Chelseas ground and told she was being dropped from the England squad for un-Lionness behaviour and a bad attitude in the previous camp. A shocked Aluko asked for examples. Sampson told her she had been withdrawn and that her behaviour differed depending on whether or not she was in the starting lineup. Aluko hasnt played for England since.

Eniola
Aluko gives evidence to the digital, culture, media and sport committee in October 2017. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

She was convinced she had been dropped because Sampson had found out about the supposedly confidential culture review. In June, she wrote to the FA with a grievance report. In August 2016, the head of elite development finally replied, insisting the two were unrelated. The FA told her it would investigate her allegations, but at the same time announced that its Integrity Unit was investigating a consultancy role Aluko had with a football agency. The FA concluded that she would have to stop working for the agency or quit football, because she was in breach of FA intermediary roles. Aluko argued there was no conflict of interest, but surrendered her paid role.

She began to think she wasnt simply involved in a spat with the England management, but that she was at war with the FA. And, as far as Aluko was concerned, the FA was playing dirty.

***

Aluko calls herself an accidental whistleblower. She never planned to sacrifice her career on the altar of justice; she just planned to alert the confidential review to inappropriate behaviour. In a way, she says, all she has ever wanted to do is quietly conform and get on with playing football. But Aluko has always stood out.

Her parents, Sileola and Daniel, moved the family from Lagos to Birmingham when Aluko was six months old. Daniel returned to Nigeria to pursue a career in politics, while Sileola worked first as a nurse and then for a pharmaceutical company, bringing up her children in England. From the age of five, Aluko was the only girl on her estate who played football. She and her younger brother, Sone, also a professional footballer, spent their free time honing their skills. Until she went to secondary school, she says, she never had a female friend. Her football-playing male friends called her Eddie, because it was a bit easier than Eni and a lot easier than Eniola.

Some parents were hostile to Aluko playing football particularly as she was better than their sons. The young Eni was told she was different from all the other girls. She knows she should have been proud, but she felt crushed. If I was talking to my young self, Id say: dont be afraid to be individual. Because I was afraid to be different. When the parents at school said: Whys a girl playing football? it made me feel alien.

It wasnt only football ability that differentiated the Alukos. While the other children on the estate spoke with a broad Brummy accent, Sileola insisted Eni and Sone spoke the Queens English. They might have been living a working-class life, but they did not have working-class roots. In Nigeria, their father had become a prominent politician. Meanwhile, at school, she began to learn how complex prejudice can be. I didnt get racism from the white girls, but I got really bad bullying from the black Caribbean girls who saw something in me that they didnt understand. They used to call me African bhuttu, which was patois for unsophisticated. And they called me Coconut because I spoke well and hung around with white people.

At the age of 15, she joined Birmingham City Ladies, where her coach Marcus Bignot labelled her the Wayne Rooney of womens football; like Rooney, she was short and muscular with an explosive burst of pace. That year, she was called up to the England youth squad. At her first camp, her skills made her stand out. I flicked the ball over somebodys head, brought it down and did a Cruyff turn and Hope Powell [Sampsons predecessor at England] stopped the session and said: Its not the Eni show. I remember thinking: well, Im not going to do that again. Ill just get it and pass it. Now she says she wishes she had followed her instincts it would have made her a better player. For her, that was a big difference between the boys and girls games while boys were encouraged to nurture their individuality, girls were scolded for it.

Eniola
Aluko was once labelled the Wayne Rooney of womens football. Photograph: Perou/The Guardian

Despite that desire to conform, there was already something unusually forthright about her. After discovering her cousin Fola had become a high-flying lawyer in New York, and reading To Kill A Mockingbird, she decided she wanted to become Atticus Finch and save lives. By then, Aluko says, she saw an injustice lurking on every corner. A boy in her class was bullied for his afro. Rather than defending him, the school banned afros. Aluko was outraged not least because one boy had long, dyed-green hair and nothing was said about it. She went to see the headteacher, who heard her out and told her she was changing the rules enforcing short hair for all the boys. It taught her that justice doesnt always look the way you want it to. That Christmas, the school awarded her a special prize for speaking up for others.

***

After Aluko put her grievance into writing in 2016, an internal investigation cleared Sampson and the management team of any wrongdoing. Aluko threatened to take the FA to court. The FA held a second investigation, this time hiring the barrister Katharine Newton to examine the evidence. In March 2017, it again cleared Sampson and his staff of wrongdoing, but Aluko was paid 80,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

In August that year, the findings were leaked to the Daily Mail, along with information about the settlement. Aluko was horrified by the way she was portrayed. The Mail did not mention the racism, only that Aluko had made allegations of bullying and harassment against Sampson and his staff. It suggested that the FA paid her the money only because it wanted to avoid disruption in the buildup to Euro 2017, that she was making problems because she had lost her place in the squad, and that her teammates didnt like her. In fact, the payout was for loss of earnings.

As for the report itself, Aluko calls it a shambles. It basically said: Eni lied about racism. Mark Sampson never said anything racist. The team is very happy. Weve interviewed a lot of players, and they say its a great culture. How did she feel when she saw it? I was gutted. Gutted. I was publicly being called a liar.

Does she think the FA set out to destroy her? She nods. It wasnt about Mark Sampson any more. It was about Eni Aluko versus the FA David versus Goliath. The PR machine of the FA was Make Eni look as bad as possible. It was a smear campaign.

Did anything ring true? Well, she says, the report was accurate that she had become withdrawn. Im an optimistic, positive person normally, but I was miserable during that time. You have a lot of downtime on England camps, so I was in my room on my own trying to get through it. I didnt really socialise with anybody. How did she cope? I have a strong faith in God. Id watch stuff from my favourite preachers about opposition and how to face adversity. Did she lose faith at any point? No, I think my faith got stronger, because in that period thats all I had.

***

In August 2017, Aluko told her side of the story to Daniel Taylor of the Guardian (she is now a columnist for the sports pages of this paper). She revealed that Sampson had made the Ebola comment and asked an unnamed mixed-race England player how many times she had been arrested. A month later, Spence told the FA that she was the player in question and that everything Aluko had said was true. The Professional Footballers Association called for a new investigation, accusing the FA of holding a sham review that was not designed to establish the truth, but intended to protect Mark Sampson.

Five days after Spence came forward, England played Russia. Every member of the team raced to the bench to celebrate with Sampson after Nikita Parris scored the opener for England in a 6-0 win. Aluko says that was when she finally cracked. I cried my eyes out when I saw that. Players can celebrate how they want, but in the midst of the case I just thought it was too much. I felt really, really low at that point.

A day later, the FA sacked Sampson out of the blue, stressing that it was nothing to do with the racism allegations. It emerged that he was forced out because of a relationship he had had with a player three years earlier when he was managing Bristol Academy. In January 2019, Sampson received a payout from the FA for unfair dismissal.

Eniola
Aluko says she is comforted by the number of female footballers who have spoken out in the past couple of years. Since her case, the American womens team have pursued an equal pay dispute. And Ada Hegerberg, Norways top player has said: I dont like the way things are happening [regarding unequal pay]. Photograph: Perou/The Guardian. Adidas Originals track top 74.95, Adidas Originals, adidas.co.uk.

A third investigation was ordered into Alukos allegations and, in October 2017, Newton concluded that Sampson had racially abused Aluko and Spence. While stressing that she did not regard Sampson as a racist, Newton said: I have concluded that, on two separate occasions, Sampson has made ill-judged attempts at humour, which, as a matter of law, were discriminatory on the grounds of race within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. The FA apologised to Aluko and Spence.

A month later, the FA was accused of a cover-up after saying that Kendall would not face action, while concealing the fact that he had admitted putting on a mock Caribbean accent to Aluko. Kendall resigned as goalkeeping coach and apologised to her.

This January, 16 months after losing his job, Sampson also apologised to Aluko and Spence, saying: As a white male, I needed to do more and Ive worked hard to educate myself. I spent six weeks with Kick It Out on their educational course for equality and diversity. I need to play a more active role in making a difference. Its something I will do for the rest of my life.

***

How did Aluko feel when she read the final report? Elated. Vindicated. Since the FAs apology, she says, they have been building bridges. After the case, they asked me to be part of the recommendations with UK Sport to build whistleblowing procedures. Where possible, she says, she wants to forgive. Forgiveness is an action, a decision. I had a decision to make. Am I going to hold on to a lot of this pain and frustration with how they treated me, or am I going to try to build a lasting relationship that will impact change moving forward? I had the opportunity to try to do something that was positive with the FA and I did that.

Have fellow players apologised to her? Silence. Erm a few of the Chelsea girls have, yeah. She mentions her former Chelsea teammates Fran Kirby and Karen Carney close friends and women she hugely respects. As for Spence, Aluko says their relationship is stronger than ever. Drew is somebody I probably speak to every other day more than anyone else in football. But Aluko is less forgiving towards members of the squad for not supporting her. To this day, Steph Houghton and a lot of leaders in that team have not come out and apologised to me for what I went through. People say: Dyou want them to sacrifice their careers for you? No, I dont. But I do expect a team of people to say: we do not share these values, we do not accept that what the manager said was correct. She bangs the table as she talks.

Would she go for a drink with them now? No. With quite a few of them, categorically no. Because what they represent is fundamentally the opposite to me. In what way? Just not being able to come out and say: for my teammate to go through this, for racism to be even talked about in this team, is unacceptable.

In June 2018, Aluko left England to play for Juventus. She has enjoyed a hugely successful year there winning the league and cup double, finishing the season as the clubs top scorer. But, despite her impressive form, Aluko did not make the England squad for this years World Cup.

Does she ever think how differently life might have turned out if she had kept her mouth shut? Yes. This summer I was doing media at the World Cup. But Im only 32 and I could have played. I think my England career would have lasted longer than it did. At the point I decided to tell the story, I knew it was going to cost me my England career.

She pauses, then says something surprising. And thats a very powerful position to be in. Why? Because a lot of players, all they can think about is their pay cheque and the fact that they want to play football, so they dont say anything. So they dont end up leaving any legacy for the next person who comes along, and its going to happen to them, too. I would like to think that, next time a player complains about something going on, and not just a black player, it wont be accepted.

One thing that has comforted her is the number of female footballers who have spoken out in the past couple of years. Im not going to take credit for this, but, since my case, both the Australia and New Zealand womens teams have publicly complained about the culture of fear; the American womens team are in an equal pay dispute and probably going to win. Ada Hegerberg, Norways top player and the best player in the world, said: I dont like the way things are happening [regarding unequal pay]. Im not playing in the World Cup. There are many examples of women standing up and saying: were not having this any more.

Unfortunately, this list includes few of her former teammates. Not surprisingly, she says, they now seem uncomfortable when they see her.

Will she ever make up with them? Aluko shakes her head. I dont need to. My life has moved on. Everybody knows what I stand for. That is far more powerful than being an England player who puts on an England shirt and plays well. As much as the England management and the FA, Aluko feels bitterly betrayed by her own colleagues. I would much rather be where Im sat than where theyre sat, because people question them to this day. People say it to me all the time: I find it difficult to support the womens team because of how they behaved. We all have moments in life when our fundamental morals are called into question. In the face of what happened to me, they did nothing. People remember that.

An exclusive extract from Alukos memoir: No one could teach me how to navigate this hyphenated identity

It was being called up to play for England that made me understand I wasnt officially British. Not yet, at least. Not on paper.

A few months after I joined the youth team of Birmingham City Ladies, in 2001, we were scheduled to play a tournament in Warwick, and our coach Marcus Bignot told us England scouts would be there. The final whistle blew on the tournament and I jogged over to my dad, who was visiting from Nigeria. One of the scouts approached, told me Id played well, took my details and said hed be in touch. That was it.

It wasnt long before the first letter from England landed on our doorstep. Mum! I called out. England want me to go to an under-15s trial! Later, she got the letter framed and hung it in the hallway. I think she saw it as something that anchored us even deeper in the UK; one of us could be representing the country.

The trial was at Loughborough University. As the date approached, Mum started to worry about what I was going to wear. Appearances have always been important to her. I told her Id just wear my training stuff, but she wouldnt hear of it. The week before the trial, we went shopping and bought a pencil skirt, a collared shirt, a suit jacket and high heels to match.

The day came and Mum drove me up to Loughborough. Parents were invited to stay for a short introductory briefing with the manager, Hope Powell. We pulled into the car park and I spotted a couple of other girls walking into the building.

Oh, God, I said, horrified. Theyre all wearing tracksuits.

We stepped inside the building, my stomach doing backflips. Thirty or 40 girls sat with their parents, every one of them in a tracksuit and trainers. I swear I heard a murmur ripple around the room, as the girls looked round and nudged each other. I lowered my head and clip-clopped over to a seat in the far back corner. A few minutes later, Powell walked into the room and launched into a business-like introduction. I didnt hear a word she said. The second the talk was over, I jumped up and ran off to change into my training gear. Ive never lived it down.

A few weeks later, a letter arrived saying Id been picked for a week-long camp. I scanned the letter and took it into the kitchen to show to Mum. I began reading it out loud, then I stopped. Oh no, I said. Mum, they want me to bring my passport. What are we going to do? Mum frowned. She had applied to make us all British citizens, but the paperwork, the checks, the tests it all took a long time. It had never crossed my mind I would need to be naturalised as British to play for England. We had leave to remain, which meant we could stay in the country as long as we wanted.

I felt entirely British. Id lived in England my whole life; it was the only home I knew. I was so tired of being the odd one out. I felt a familiar despair rising, one I was coming to associate with my British-Nigerian identity.

Passports were a big deal for the Nigerian community in the UK. A red British passport was a prized possession for those who had been in the UK long enough to own one alongside the Nigerian document, known as a green pali. To hold a British passport was a gateway to the world. Mum mentioned our problem to Dad, to her Nigerian friends and family. Listen, said one uncle, who liked to flaunt that he was a British citizen by birth. If she dares show up with green pali, theyll send that child straight back. She has to be Britico now, dont you know that?

I felt like an alien in my own country. If I wasnt British, then what was I? I thought back to my last visit to Nigeria. I felt like a foreigner there, too.

Every day Id wake up and hope the document would drop on to the doormat. Every day it wasnt there and the camp was another day nearer.

In the end, I took an acknowledgement from the Home Office proving Mum had applied for naturalisation, together with a note she wrote. It was all we had. Thankfully, the coaches were more relaxed than expected.

A few months later, my passport finally arrived. Mum emptied the burgundy books out on to the table, alongside our Nigerian documents. Now you can travel wherever you want, she said.

I saw for the first time what this process meant. Getting a red passport was more than a formality. It was about status. She had been an adult when she first came to the UK, and all this time she had been a foreigner. She had worked hard to forge new paths for herself and her children. I turned over the little red book in my hand and stroked the gold coat of arms on the front. I picked out my old Nigerian passport and held it in my other hand. Two passports, two identities.

No one could teach me how to navigate this hyphenated identity. For me, being British-Nigerian is a tightrope Ill be on for the rest of my life. And whenever I wobble, or feel others are trying to pull me in one direction or the other, I grab on to my hyphen and remember Ill always be both.

They Dont Teach This by Eniola Aluko is published by Yellow Jersey Press (14.99). To order a copy for 10.99, go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK P&P on online orders over 15. Phone orders minimum P&P of 1.99.

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