Grenadian roots of the world’s first black professional footballer

Posted by at 6 June, at 13 : 21 PM Print

Caribupdate Editorial

June 6, 2014: With the opening of the World Cup of soccer, it is opportune moment to pay tribute to a player with Grenadian roots that created footballing history in England. His name is Arthur Wharton.

Wharton was born in Ghana; but, his father was born in Grenada to a Scottish father. Later, Mr Wharton Sr. moved to Ghana to do Methodist teaching and ended up marrying a Ghanaian princess of the Fante Akan royalty.

Young Arthur moved to England in 1882 and became a star in multiple sports, including football. In fact, Arthur Wharton became the world’s first black professional footballer after signing for Rotherham United in 1889.

Wharton’s historic achievement is being recognized in Britain through the efforts of members of the Arthur Wharton Foundation.

The foundation, in collaboration with The Football Association, is memorializing Wharton. They  are unveiling a 16-foot statue of Wharton, prominently displaying at The National Football Centre at St Georges Park.

The statue is flanked by education materials supplied by the Arthur Wharton Foundation and Sheffield-based Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) project, including a comic, a film and an exhibition.

As well, later in the year, a second statue is expected to be erected at the New York Stadium, home of Rotherham United.

Wharton, according to one supporter of on the initiative in honour of Wharton, said “he was truly a pioneer of his time. It is remarkable to think about the adversity he had to overcome to achieve what he did.”

Shaun Campbell, Founder of The Arthur Wharton Foundation, said: “We are hugely honoured and privileged to have received such fantastic support from The FA throughout our campaign helping raise awareness of Arthur’s achievements. Having a statue in Arthur’s honour erected at St. George’s Park is testament to that support, and we also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the wonderful and tangible support that we have received from other stakeholders including FIFA, UEFA, and the PFA throughout this campaign.”

FA Chairman, Greg Dyke, said: “We’re delighted not only to give Arthur a permanent home, but to tell his story throughout St. George’s Park. Everyone who visits our wonderful facility will learn of his significance historically, and his remarkable achievements.”

St. George’s Park Chairman, David Sheepshanks, said the undertaking is a chance to educate and inspire.

“We hope that this statue will both educate and inspire a new generation of coaches and players from all backgrounds and specifically black and minority ethnic backgrounds,” Sheepshanks said.

As a sportsman, Wharton was a goalkeeper for his home-town club Darlington FC. He also represented Rotherham United, Preston North End, and Sheffield United.

He was no track and field slouch either. Wharton became the first official 100-yard world record holder and world champion in 1886.

But it was not just football and the sprints. Additionally, this Grenadian-Ghanaian was a professional cricketer, cycling champion and rugby player.

All Grenada and the world should celebrate the outstanding sporting achievement of Arthur Wharton.

Caribupdate is a Grenada weekly

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