Revealed: The first EVER confirmed picture of secretive graffiti artist Banksy

September 17, 2012 | by | 0 Comments

This is the first-ever confirmed picture of secretive graffiti artist Banksy – taken when he was an amateur footballer playing against Mexican freedom fighters.

Before his rise to fame the guerrilla artist was a goalkeeper for Bristol-based football club Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls.

In 2001 he joined them on a tour of Mexico where he played against Zapatista freedom fighters and painted them a mural depicting their struggle for independence.

Wearing a cowboy hat, Banksy writes graffiti on a building in Mexico during the football tour

Wearing a cowboy hat, Banksy writes graffiti on a building in Mexico during the football tour

The image is one of several in the book The Story of the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls which documents the football team Bansky used to play for

The image is one of several in the book The Story of the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls which documents the football team Bansky used to play for

Now images of the tour have been published for the first time in a new book – although the infamous artist’s face has been pixelated to protect his identity.

However, it the first time a confirmed picture of the illusive Banksy has ever been printed despite years of speculation over his true identity.

Club secretary Will Simpson said the artist began turning up to football sessions in the 1990s before he shot to fame.

Will said: “He went on tour with us to Mexico in 2001 and painted a number of murals in the community.

“He did one tour and shortly after, he might have moved to London – we see him every so often when he comes back to Bristol.”

He added: “He came out with us on our second tour of Mexico – he did a few murals and played in goal for a bit.

“He wasn’t a bad goalie actually.”

Banksy's face is blurred out in this image of him painting a wall

Banksy’s face is blurred out in this image of him painting a wall

The iconic style of the graffiti artist is recogniseable in the Mexican work

The iconic style of the graffiti artist is recogniseable in the Mexican work

The ground-breaking community football team was founded in the Easton area of Bristol, close to where Banksy grew up, in 1992.

It prides itself as being “Britain’s most intrepid sport club” and sends teams of amateur players to play in troubled communities all over the world.

They were the first European team to play in the war-torn West Bank and in 2000 their cricket team played a two-day test against Compton Homies and Popz, in the crime-ridden area of Los Angeles.

Will said: “The Cowboys is unique in that we don’t define ourselves as a socialist team or anarchist team, we are a sports team that has a political dimension.

“We’re anti-racist, anti-sexist, we’re against homophobia. We try to foster an inclusive atmosphere.

“Most football teams are 15 to 20 blokes but Cowboys and Cowgirls is a massive community.

“We have 200 people on the mailing list and about 150 people playing sports.

“We invite people of all backgrounds and abilities – you don’t have to play a sport to be part of Cowboys.

“Even if they cheer them from the touchline, we’ve lots and lots of non-playing cowboys and cowgirls.”

Banksy joined them for a tour to Mexico in 2001 – when he was aged around 27 or 28 – where they played against the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Led by the indigenous people of the Chiapas Mountains, the non-violent human rights group is fighting for freedom from the Mexican government.

Since finding fame Banksy has helped raise over #100,000 to support the club, including donating artwork to auction and designing a T-shirt.

He also donated a painting which was raffled off to raise money for water projects in a poor area of south-west Mexico.

Will said: “He’s a nice bloke – we still see him every now and again when he pops into The Plough when he’s back in Bristol.”

To celebrate the club’s 20th anniversary, Will and fellow Cowboy Malcolm McMahon have written a book chronicling the club’s history and featuring previously-unseen pictures.

Banksy’s true identity has never been confirmed and no picture of him as ever been verified.

He was originally believed to be a Robert or Robin Banks born in Yate near Bristol in the mid 1970s.

In 2004 a picture emerged which reportedly showed Banksy working on an art project in Kingston, Jamaica, but it was denied by the artist himself.

It has most recently been claimed that Banksy’s true identity is Robin Gunningham, a middle-class former public schoolboy from Bristol.

Freedom Through Football: The Story Of The Easton Cowboys & Cowgirls, by Will Simpson and Malcolm McMahon is out now, is available through publisher Tangent Books’ website www.tangentbooks.co.uk priced £9.99.

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