Wharton recognised at Wembley
Tuesday, 29 March, 2011
Pitchside presentation before Ghana game for world's first black professional.
The legacy of the world’s very first black professional footballer, Arthur Wharton, will be officially recognised by The FA before England’s friendly international with Ghana at Wembley this evening.
West Bromwich Albion’s black football pioneers, Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson, will join Wharton’s oldest living relative, Sheila Leeson, plus Sir Trevor Brooking in a pitchside presentation at 7pm.
Last year saw The FA donate £20,000 to the Arthur Wharton Foundation towards the building of a statue in Wharton’s adopted hometown of Darlington.
The 12ft bronze tribute to Arthur Wharton will be sculptured by Vivien Mallock, who produced the Brian Clough statue which stands outside Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
Born in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1865, Wharton travelled to England in 1882 to train as a missionary but, after settling in Darlington, he abandoned his studies in favour of a career in sport.
He played in goal for Preston North End a year before their famous “invincible” season of 1888-89 and was understudy to the legendary William “Fatty” Foulke at Sheffield United.
Wharton’s sporting prowess wasn’t confined to just football – in his time at Darlington he was also a top level sprinter and set a world record by running 100 yards in ten seconds flat at Stamford Bridge.
Wharton passed away in 1930 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave but the site is now recognised with a proper headstone after campaign work by Sheila Leeson, Phil Vasili and Football Unites Racism Divides.