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Wednesday, 13 January 2016 19:48

World's First Black Professional Soccer Player "Arthur Wharton"

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Mr Wharton (pictured as an amateur with Darlington FC) became known as a goalkeeper who would indulge in punching the ball as far as the halfway line and catching the ball with his legs while swinging on the crossbar Mr Wharton (pictured as an amateur with Darlington FC) became known as a goalkeeper who would indulge in punching the ball as far as the halfway line and catching the ball with his legs while swinging on the crossbar

Missionary's son Arthur Wharton came to England from Africa in 1880s. He became world's first person to run the 100 yard sprint in 10 seconds. Player then turned successfully to football and also became a cricketer, but he later spent 20 years working down a coal mine in South Yorkshire.

The son of a wealthy missionary, Arthur Wharton arrived in Cannock, Staffordshire, in the early 1880s as a teenage immigrant from Gold Coast, now Ghana, and his talents did not go unnoticed for long.

He ran the first 10-second 100 yard dash and played for Rotherham Town and Sheffield United - before spending 20 years down a South Yorkshire coal mine and dying a pauper.

Making history:

The son of a wealthy missionary, Arthur Wharton arrived in Cannock, Staffordshire, in the early 1880s as a teenage immigrant from Gold Coast (now Ghana) and sprinted before playing football and cricket.

'He was a Victorian sporting hero.'  The 6ft teenager was sent to Britain in the 1880s to train as a Christian missionary, but soon took up athletics, winning the Amateur Athletic Association national championships two years in a row.

After hanging up his running shoes Mr. Wharton went on to become an accomplished goalkeeper.

During his amateur days, which included a debut for Preston North End in the FA Cup, he became known for punching the ball as far as the halfway line and catching the ball with his legs while swinging on the crossbar.

Then, in 1889, he made history by signing professional terms for Rotherham Town and playing in the Football League.

Riches to rags:

In later life Arthur Wharton became a coal miner, dying a pauper aged 65.

The move made him the first black full-time paid footballer in the history of Britain, and quite possibly the history of the world.  He later joined Sheffield United and played in the First Division, which is now the Premier League. The trailblazer played some 80 years before the likes of Bermuda-born Clyde Best played for West Ham United.

His career did not stop there. Mr. Wharton also became a professional cricketer, being recognized as a great all-round sportsman.

He was the token professional player for local Yorkshire Greensborough, but in 1914 he turned down a cricket coaching role at Durham to work as a miner.

He spent 20 years down a coal mine in South Yorkshire and died a pauper aged 65 in 1930, having spent all his earnings from professional sport.

Howard Holmes, of the Football Unites, Racism Divides campaign which installed a headstone on Mr. Wharton's grave, went with his great-granddaughter to the event.

'You think of black footballers in England and you think of Clyde Best and Laurie Cunningham,' he said. 'But Arthur was 70 or 80 years before their time.

'That is why his story is so important because it shows there was a black presence in English football right at the very start of the professional game.

'But Arthur’s was a real riches-to-rags story. He would have been quite well-paid when he was a goalkeeper but after that he had to earn a living as a miner. 'He did that in an overwhelming white community in Yorkshire.

'Can you imagine some of the multi-millionaire Premier League footballers of today having to do that?'

Culled from Daily Mail UK.

 

Read 971 times Last modified on Friday, 12 February 2016 03:24

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