Arthur Wharton was considered to be the first ever black to grace the beautiful game of football, Arthur was born on 28 of October 1865 in Jamestown, Gold Coast (now Accra, Ghana) His father Henry Wharton was Grenadian, while his mother, Annie Florence Egyriba was a member of the Fante Ghanaian royalty.
Wharton moved to England in 1882 at age 19, to train as a Methodist missionary, but soon abandoned this in favour of becoming a full-time athlete.
He was an all-around sportsman – in 1886, he equaled the amateur world record of 10 seconds for the 100-yard sprint in the AAA championship. He was also a keen cyclist and cricketer, playing for local teams in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
However, Wharton is best remembered for his exploits as a footballer; while he was not the first mixed-heritage footballer in the United Kingdom — leading amateurs Robert Walker and Scotland international Andrew Watson predate him — he was the first mixed-heritage footballer to turn professional.
Arthur Wharton football career started as an amateur, playing as a goalkeeper for Darlington where he was spotted by Preston North End after playing against them. He joined them as an amateur and was part of the team that reached FA Cup semi-finals in 1886-87. Though part of “The Invincibles” of the 1880s, he left Preston in 1888 to concentrate on his running, and thus was not part of the team that subsequently won the Double in 1888-89.
He returned to football in 1889, joining Rotherham Town before signing as a professional. In 1890 he married Emma Lister (1866-1944) at Rotherham in Yorkshire. By 1891 he was the landlord of the Albert Tavern in Rotherham.
In 1894 he moved to Sheffield United, though he was understudy to regular first-team goalkeeper William “Fatty” Foulke. During the 1894-95 season, Wharton played three games for Sheffield United, against Leicester Fosse, Linfield, and Sunderland — the latter being a First Division game, making Wharton the first mixed-heritage player to play in the top flight.
Having developed a drinking problem, Wharton retired from football in 1902 and found employment as a colliery haulage worker at the Yorkshire Main Colliery in Edlington. By 1911 he was employed as a collier and living in a rented room in Moorthorpe, West Yorkshire.On his death in 1930 he was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.
The grave was given a headstone in 1997 after a campaign by anti-racism campaigners Football Unites, Racism Divides. In 2003 Wharton was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of the impact he made on the game. A campaign to have a statue erected in Darlington as well as in Rotherham to acknowledge Wharton’s achievements have gained wide support within the professional game.
In 2012, a small statue of Wharton was presented to Sepp Blatter at the headquarters of FIFA, where it will be on permanent display.On 16 October 2014, a statue honoring Wharton was unveiled at St George’s Park National Football Centre.
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