Statue to honour first black professional
The Football Association are to honour the world’s first black professional footballer with a bronze statue at St George’s Park.
Vivien Mallock has been commissioned to sculpt a 16 ft statue of Arthur Wharton, 125 years after he signed for Rotherham Town (now Rotherham United), in a collaboration between the FA and the Arthur Wharton Foundation.
Rotherham also have plans to unveil a second statue at their New York Stadium before the end of the calendar year, according to The Times.
The FA also plan to further highlight Wharton’s impact in their education department at St George’s Park with a comic, a film, an exhibition and a range of presentations.
“Everyone who visits our wonderful facility will learn of his significance historically, and his remarkable achievements,” Greg Dyke, the FA chairman, said: “We’re delighted not only to give Arthur a permanent home, but to tell his story throughout St George’s Park.”
Wharton, who was born in Accra, Ghana in 1865, played and coached cricket and was the first official 100-yard world record holder and world champion in 1886, in addition to playing as a goalkeeper for Darlington, Preston North End, Sheffield United and Rotherham.
“He was truly a pioneer of his time and it is remarkable to think about the adversity he had to overcome to achieve what he did,” David Sheepshanks, the St George’s Park chairman, said.
“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.”
Wharton began his career for Darlington, and was also selected to play for the Newcastle and District team, before joining Preston as an amateur in 1886. However, in 1888 he left to concentrate on running before their famous ‘Invincibles’ side won the inaugural League and Cup double.
Upon joining Rotherham he turned professional and spent five years with the club before becoming the first mixed-race player in the top flight when he moved to Sheffield United.
Wharton was also a professional cricketer for Greensboro, Stalybridge and Cannock and Darlington cricket clubs, and dedicated his time to cricket and running upon his retirement from professional football in 1902.