History Arthur Wharton, The world's first Black professional footballer

Arthur Wharton, The world’s first Black professional footballer

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Arthur Wharton

Arthur Wharton was the world’s first Black professional footballer.

Arthur Wharton was born in Jamestown, Accra, Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1865. Coming to England to study in about 1882, Wharton soon made a name for himself in athletics. Winning the Amateur Athletics Association 100 yards sprint in a world record time of 10 seconds (the first world record), he retained his title in 1887. A supreme all-round athlete, his other sports were cricket, cycling and football.

While playing for Darlington as a goalkeeper, Wharton was spotted by Preston North End in

1885 – 86. He joined them the following season during which they reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. By 1889, he had turned professional, playing for Rotherham Town, Sheffield United, Stalybridge Celtic and Ashton North End. He finished his footballing career in 1902 playing for Stockport County in Football League Division Two. His last match was against Newton Heath in February 1902. An unorthodox and entertaining performer, he had a phenomenal punch as a keeper and, with his sprinting background, sometimes played on the wing.

Arthur Wharton

During the 1890s to be a goalkeeper, you had to be mad, bad or dangerous to know. Goalies could handle the ball anywhere in their half of the pitch and could be charged down with or without the ball. Trying to grab the ball in a crowded goal mouth, the goalie needed the protective and attacking skills of a Thai kick boxer. He spent much of the rest of his working life as a colliery haulage hand in the South Yorkshire pits. He died in December 1930 and was buried in a third-class grave in Edlington, South Yorkshire.

Bibliography:

  1. “Arthur Wharton”. 100 Great Black Britons.
  2.  Phil Vasili (1998). The First Black Footballer, Arthur Wharton, 1865–1930. Frank Cass. ISBN 0-7146-4903-1.
  3.  “Arthur Wharton”. Football Unites, Racism Divides.

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