First black footballer is to be honoured

The Arthur Wharton statue is at 4TO in Ipswich for a fundraiser. L-R: Ruel Fox, deputy mayor Mary Bl

The Arthur Wharton statue is at 4TO in Ipswich for a fundraiser. L-R: Ruel Fox, deputy mayor Mary Blake, John Wark, Lenny Paul, Shaun Campbell (Arthur Wharton Foundation) and Fabian Wilnis. - Credit: Archant

The legend of Britain’ first black pro footballer

Today professional football is a cosmopolitan sport.

Players from many countries are taking part at all levels, including black British players and other from around the world.

Until recently the story of the first black British professional footballer, Arthur Wharton, was relatively unknown.

In Victorian times Arthur, a Methodist preacher, was a star goalkeeper for Newcastle United, Darlington and other clubs.

Despite his success in football, and in other sports, Arthur Wharton died in 1930, a hopeless alcoholic, and had been buried in an unmarked grave.

But now he is going to honoured by a larger-than-life statue, at the new FA training centre at St George’s Park.

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Shaun Campbell of the Arthur Wharton Foundation was in Ipswich on Wednesday, at Olympian Lenny Paul’s 4T0 Club in Princes Street, to talk about the work of the foundation, in bringing people together through sport, and announce plans for the statue.

Other sports stars including former footballers John Wark, Ruel Fox and Fabian Wilnis, tennis player Elena Baltacha and local business people were there for the event.

Shaun Campbell said: “It is my first time in Ipswich and I am proud and privilged to be here, where my other great hero, Sir Bobby Robson is just round the corner.

“I can exclusively reveal that the full scale, 16 ft statue of Arthur is going to be at St George’s Park, the home of the FA.

“There are seven smaller versions, including this one and one at Wembley Stadium.”

Arthur Wharton could be an inspiration to the young people of today, he said.

Despite the wealth in professional football, players still faced problems like alcoholism and needed good education and guidance.

Arthur Wharton, today, would have been a sporting superstar.

In his own time he was also a professional cricketer, was a sprinter who ran 100 yards in ten seconds, in 1886, in pigskins shoes, was also a British cycling champion and he played both codes of rugby.

Yet he also played seven games of football, in ten days, to feed the poor.

Arthur Wharton was of mixed Scottish and Ghanaian heritage, he said.

“Back in 2007 when I heard about him, and the fact he was little known, I decided to do something about it.

“Then in 2010, I was on stage with Stevie Wonder, in front of 14,000 people, and he announced there was going to be an Arthur Wharton Foundationn, so we just had to do it.”

Football was a sport that could bring people together, he added. “Football unites, racism divides.

“We have more in common, than we have that is different.”

Four time bobsleigh Olympian Lenny Paul, from Ipswich, is joining the Arthur Wharton Foundation as an ambassador.

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