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Football finally remembers its forgotten pioneer

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Matt Slater | 09:58 UK time, Monday, 28 March 2011

Professional footballer, record-breaking sprinter, champion cyclist, club cricketer: to suggest Arthur Wharton could play a bit is to tell only a fraction of an incredible story.

That story, which starts in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) in 1865 and appears to end in a pauper's grave near Doncaster in 1930, was lost for over 60 years but is now finally being given the attention it deserves.

I say "appears to end" because a more appropriate final chapter to Wharton's life is currently being written, thanks, in large part, to the efforts of two people: Darlington businessman Shaun Campbell and Rotherham grandmother Sheila Leeson.

This pair will be part of a Wembley ceremony before Tuesday's England v Ghana friendly to celebrate Wharton's legacy as the first black professional in world football. And with this being the first senior match between England and its former colony, it is difficult to think of a more suitable occasion to mark the achievements of a true pioneer.

The son of a renowned half-Grenadian, half-Scottish Methodist minister and a Ghanaian princess, an intrepid Wharton came to England in 1884 aged 19.

Arthur Wharton

A remarkable sportsman, Wharton was versatile enough to play in goal and on the wing

The plan was to train as a missionary at Cleveland College but the more secular calling of Darlington FC proved impossible to resist. The pulpit's loss was sport's gain.

The "gentleman amateur" soon became a fixture between the sticks for Darlo and it was during his first season with the club that he was spotted by Preston North End. He joined the Lancashire giants a year later and featured in their run to the FA Cup semi-finals in 1887 (this was when the FA Cup was football's premier competition).

But Wharton was no ordinary goalie. For a start, he was also the world record-holder for 100 yards - his Amateur Athletics Association Championship-winning performance at Stamford Bridge in 1886 was the first anywhere to stop the clock at 10 seconds flat. And in 1887 he set a record time for a bike race between Preston and Blackburn.

This all-round prowess led Wharton to quit PNE for a stint as a professional runner in 1888 - so he missed being a part of the club's storied Double-winning team in 1889 - but a year later he was back in football as a professional with Rotherham Town.

Five seasons there were followed by a move to Sheffield United, where he spent most of his single season in the First Division as understudy to the legendary William "Fatty" Foulke.

After that there were stints with Stalybridge Rovers, Ashton North End and Stockport County. His last season was County's Division Two campaign in 1902.

There may have been no major honours or international caps during Wharton's 17-year career but how many other goalkeepers can you think of that were versatile enough to play winger too? And that's not to mention his feats in club cricket, athletics or cycling. Wharton would have given C. B. Fry a run for his money in a Victorian version of Superstars.

So why don't we know more about him?

There is no easy answer to that but any attempt would surely start with racism (he was commonly called "Darkie" Wharton) and end with bad luck (he fell on hard times after his playing days were finished).

That we know anything about him at all is mainly down to the aforementioned Campell and Leeson.

The latter often wondered about the grandparents her mother refused to talk about but did not pursue the matter until her mum died in 1991 and she found a box of photographs.

That box sat unopened in her house for three years until her husband died and she was forced to move. Sorting through her belongings, Leeson's son-in-law found the photos and spotted one of particular interest, a fading snap of a wiry-looking sportsman standing by a large trophy.

That sportsman was Wharton and the trophy was the prize for that record-breaking sprint 108 years before. Leeson did not need another invitation to uncover her hidden history.

Before long the retired schoolteacher, now 79, had found her grandfather's unmarked grave and, with the help of historian Phil Vasili, put together the pieces of his later years.

Once his days as a professional sportsman were over, Wharton became a miner, moving from colliery to colliery and drinking too much. From the scrap heap to the slag heap. When the end came at 65 he was penniless.

Rio Ferdinand with a model of the Arthur Wharton statue

But by 1997 he was no longer forgotten. First, a Sheffield-based charity called "Football Unites, Racism Divides" took up Wharton's cause and paid for a headstone. And then, a decade later, Campbell entered the fray.

A self-styled "creative thinker and practitioner", Campbell first heard of Wharton when he picked up a leaflet about him at an anti-racism event.

Moved by his story, Campbell set up the Arthur Wharton Foundation and began a campaign that should result in Darlington getting a fitting memorial to one of its most illustrious but underappreciated adopted sons: a bronze statue of Wharton tipping a shot over the bar.

The cast of characters who have played a role in what will be the first public statue of a black footballer in this country is almost too long to list but a few names stand out: the Ghana-born George Boateng (who became the foundation's first football patron during his stint at Hull City), Viv Anderson (the first black player to represent England in a full international), the writer Irvine Welsh and music legend Stevie Wonder.

But perhaps the biggest step towards a proper memorial to Wharton came last year when the Football Association gave £20,000 to the foundation. That money, coupled with a slightly smaller donation from Uefa, has enabled Campbell to commission the respected sculptor Vivien Mallock, whose earlier work includes the statue of a young Brian Clough that stands in Middlesbrough's Albert Park.

No firm decision has been made yet on where Mallock's Wharton will reside but Campbell promised me "it will be somewhere people can see it and be inspired by it".

A model of the statue will be presented to Leeson by Sir Trevor Brooking in Tuesday's pre-match presentation, although she told me she was more excited by the prospect of meeting some of the footballers who have followed the trail her grandfather blazed more than a century ago.

Recognising that achievement on this night of Anglo-Ghanaian relations is a celebration worthy of Wharton and an indication of how far we have come.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about at http://twitter.com/bbc_matt

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Fantastic achievements by a truly remarkable man, who I had never heard of until now!

  • Comment number 2.

    I really enjoyed this blog, an amazing story of a history almost buried. Not to split hairs but it appears Arthur was dual heritage (as I am), which in my opinion doesn't make him the first "black" professional player. It's often the case I suppose that "black" pioneers aren't actually "black" at all Bob Marley, Jimmi Hendrix, Hale Berry to name a few but that's a totally different discussion....

    Thanks for the good read.

  • Comment number 3.

    Andrew Watson played Internation football for Scotland in 1881. (He was black.)
    Not taking anything away from Arthur Wharton but which one was the "pioneer?"

  • Comment number 4.

    Just read that Andrew Watson was the first black player to play international but Wharton was the first black player to turn professional.

  • Comment number 5.

    Very informative blog - as for the question on Andrew Watson - did he play professionally?

    If not then I would say Wharton's impact as a pioneer is higher especially given his achievements in other sports as well. Andrew Watson's achievement in terms of being capped by Scotland and playing for Queens Park were also great.

  • Comment number 6.

    2. At 14:27pm on 28th Mar 2011, Herc - 606er in Exile wrote:
    I really enjoyed this blog, an amazing story of a history almost buried. Not to split hairs but it appears Arthur was dual heritage (as I am), which in my opinion doesn't make him the first "black" professional player. It's often the case I suppose that "black" pioneers aren't actually "black" at all Bob Marley, Jimmi Hendrix, Hale Berry to name a few but that's a totally different discussion....


    ------------------------------------------

    Why does it make a difference. I've never unbderstood why some people claim mixed-race people aren't properly black like you need a qaulification for it or something. I remember at school sometimes you had mixed race kids calling people who had 2 black parents the N-word and sometimes theer would be reciprocal insults of the same type and I never understood why as considering the amount of racism from the National Front and others at the time you would have thought they would stick together

  • Comment number 7.

    I know its off topic on what is a good blog, but the whole Hale Berry thing about her being a Black pioneer really annoys me.

    They hype it because she was the first black Oscar winner, when in fact it was Whoopi Goldberg for her role in Ghost ( http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000155/awards )

    Anyway, as I said good blog and interesting read, I had not heard of him either.

  • Comment number 8.

    Perhaps once we no longer have to say someone is the first 'black' or first 'white' something rather than just first person/sportsman, etc we can celebrate that racism has finally gone away and that our colour is irrelevant.

  • Comment number 9.

    Because we're different, that's my point.

    It's my belief that in general mix raced people (in history and the media at least) have been more readily accepted than black people. Whether it's because in general a person with one black and one white parent is more likely to have a greater cultural nuance with white people and is more likely to have grown up in white circles and hence has an inherent social awareness or perhaps even that they are likely to carry a number of white facial features.

    It's not as simple as saying "well you're mixed race therefore you are black" it's easy to do that on the basis of the colour of someones skin. Genetically and culturally speaking you are literally as black as you are white.

    Barack Obama is another example, first "black" president? He too is as black as he is white.

  • Comment number 10.

    The hype is about it being the lead actress Oscar, wasn't Whoopi Goldberg's for supporting?

  • Comment number 11.

    ahhh that may be it, I remember reading somewhere about it just being the first black actress to win an Oscar, but maybe I am remembering it wrongly, or maybe its my complete dislike of the overhyped Hale Berry :D .

  • Comment number 12.

    between 1999-2002 i worked on an anti racism initiative with PNEFC, as part of my work i used to visit local schools and communities with the History of Black Footballers Exhibition, which included Arthur Wharton and Ricky Heppolette reputely the first Asian to play in England, I am proud that Preston had both these players and is part of this towns history, if only everybody so it this way

  • Comment number 13.

    Halle Berry is a terrible actress agreed.

    Did the woman who wouldn't mention (who I assume was his daughter) Wharton, ashamed of his race or did they have some personal dispute? It seems odd that she didn't see fit to talk about him yet kept photos of him for all her life.

  • Comment number 14.

    Herc - 606er in Exile - I think you'll find that Halle Berry's mother is white. Anyway, it is irrelevant compared to the story of a remarkable athlete who deserves recognition.

  • Comment number 15.

    Congratulations BBC sport, although this article is very important in sports history. The Arthur Wharton story has been done at least 20 times in the last 10 years. so you didnt hear it here 1st! Check out total football, 442 and various other magazines/fanzines. What has Halle Berry got to do with this!

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    I know Bond that's why we were talking about her, the relevance being black pioneers aren't always technically black (well in the case of Arthur Wharton anyway).

  • Comment number 18.

    By the way, the first black Oscar-winner was Hattie McDaniel in 1939 (Best Supporting Actress - Gone With The Wind).

  • Comment number 19.

    The racism thing is, was and I guess always will be part of the human psyche.
    I remember growing up in England and being called "that Irish womans kid".
    Went to Canada and was called "Limey".
    Returned home (with a slight accent) and was named "Yank".
    Emigrated to Aussie and even after 40 years am still called a "Pommie" (even by my kids when the cricket is on).
    God only knows what it must be like for a black, yellow or brown man!

  • Comment number 20.

    Put the statue at Wembley! RIP Jack!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Most "black" people born outside of africa e.g carribean south are of mixed decent to some degree (like myself, does that mean they cannot be called black ?, he suffered racial abuse as "black" man even he was quarter european , anyway the point is that its shows how far people of african decent ( no matter what degree) have progessed and how racial relations have improved

  • Comment number 22.

    Wharton was doing what he love best at that time but maybe it was offending some members of his society at that time. Sports/football goes beyond what sports was meant for hence such forgotten heroes would always come up later. With the mixed race thing it goes beyond what we read. They have been groomed to believe being black is not a good thing and the black race can't achieve something without them hence the hype whenever they achieve something after all the first black thing, all it means is after all the barriers put before this race someone could break the barrier.

  • Comment number 23.

    It's not surprising to me that pioneer footballers of African descent, who played in Europe are not known to many in this 21st century. Trail blazers such as Andrew Watson, Arthur Wharton and a few others should not be forgotten for posterity. Those who do not know the past may not be able to decipher the future. A book, Why Africa? newly published is the best guide to inform the public on different sports where Africans excelled in the past.
    - Bona Udeze

  • Comment number 24.

    Maybe this story should be made into a film. Not by Hollywood, please, but by a British film house.

  • Comment number 25.

    So basically whatever you're called is what you are? I'm not saying that the people aren't or can't claim to be black. Invariably they opt to allow the title, who doesn't want to be a pioneer in their industry? And I won't deny "First black" sounds better than "First not completely white" I just fear that the whole "look how we've moved on" doesn't hold as much weight when the first black everything is someone who's been often raised in not such a culturally or socially different way to the white people who had previously dominated the industry.

    I'm also interested to know where you draw the line, is Ryan Giggs the most decorated black premier league player ever because his father is by your distinction "black" or does he look white enough to be considered white?

  • Comment number 26.

    If he was to refer to himself as that , why not? at what point does a black person become mixed races and a mixed race white? or is it down to looks a what you can pass for? because there are "white" looking people of african decent and very dark people of a mixed decent. black people may often have been raised in a similar way to whites but there are still social boundries that often prevent them from achieving their full potential in not just sport but all things

  • Comment number 27.

    It seems like whenever race is discussed, we get into some petty argument about who is whiter than whom, and mixed race against pure black/white.

    Arthur Wharton was not a Caucasian, therefore he was likely discriminated against for this fact.

    Sorry to come back to Halle Berry again, but I think there was something she said about race and discrimination: "No matter how little chocolate there is in the milk, to most people it's still chocolate milk". The Caucasian will most likely look upon any mixed race person as "Non-White".

  • Comment number 28.

    What a great article and a great man by the sounds of it. I'm suprised his story is only now coming to light.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    21. At 18:36em on 28th mar 2011, essien_123 wrote:

    Most "black" people born outside of africa e.g carribean south are of mixed decent to some degree (like myself, does that mean they cannot be called black ?, he suffered racial abuse as "black" man even he was quarter european , anyway the point is that its shows how far people of african decent ( no matter what degree) have progessed and how racial relations have improved
    ____________________________________________________

    Absolutely. You have to contextualise the meaning of 'black'. A mixed race kid in Britain today is mixed race. A mixed race young Bob Marley on the other hand, was black, as he walked down the streets of Britain. We have come a long way and I am glad we have!

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with M20, get the statue up at Wembley next to Bobby Moore. We could have a statue area for trail blazers - first Englishman to captain a world cup winning team - first black professional in English football and other original role models for today could be added.

    Isn't that the point of statues?

    Good, and informative, blog.

  • Comment number 32.

    Incidentally - I wouldn't climb over Halle Berry to get to any of youse lot.

    Doesn't she have a comet and a telescope named after her?

  • Comment number 33.

    Whilst these guys were pioneers ... does anyone remember them? Not a reason not to honour them of course, but I have to ask why isn't there a statue of Albert Johanneson outside Elland Road? Fantastic player, an icon, and someone who achieved at the highest level ...

  • Comment number 34.

    The son of a renowned half-Grenadian, half-Scottish Methodist minister and a Ghanaian princess,

    Now thats one hell of a genetic makeup! Great read, thanks.

  • Comment number 35.

    Andrew Watson was not a professional because he played for Queens Park, a team that even today are strictly amateur. I stress that I was not trying to detract in any way the achievements of Arthur Wharton. If the purpose of the article was indeed to highlight "forgotten pioneers" then perhaps Andrew Watson could at least have been mentioned.

  • Comment number 36.

    Yes not a bad read and sounds like a great sportsman but I totally agree with #8 that whilst we continue celebrating the 'first black...' racism wont go away! Whilst some of these, previously thought, minorities (e.g. blacks, women, asians etc.) may like recognition I suspect some would just like to finally be seen as full equals instead of still, in a way, being segregated! I know I would if I were in their shoes..

  • Comment number 37.

    Very interesting story.
    A great idea to commemorate such an iconic man.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hi Mark,

    What a fantastic blog! I only wish this had more exposure as (like I am sure a lot of people) this is the first I have ever heard about this.

    I would be surprised if he was the only one as well as there were hundreds of people who moved to this country in the late 18th and early 19th century.

  • Comment number 39.

    Just a shame that the National Football Museum has been moved from Deepdale where he used to play and where there was an exhibition about him. No doubt the museum is in mothballs following the proposed (IMHO) ill advised move to Manchester's Urbis centre, where last I heard the promised funding was a casualty of spending cuts!

  • Comment number 40.

    I have read a few stories, over the years, about Arthur Wharton, so much so, when my team (Preston North End) were looking to name the 4th stand, to complete the stadium, I was hopeful Arthur Wharton would be recognised by naming the stand after him, but it was to be named after the 1888 side, "The Invincibles". The fact that this blog is about Wharton being the first coloured professional footballer is significant, and it is not because of where he started (Darlington) but where he was first paid to play football, Preston North End. Preston is steeped in history, many firsts and Arthur Wharton should be recognised at the ground in some way, and why not with this statue ? Affterall, It is still the same ground where PNE played back in 1887, so more reasons to place the statue there, than not.

  • Comment number 41.

    The point on colour here is misguided.

    What everyone needs to remember is that it was the white man that deemed anyone that showed signs of any colour as being a 'black' person. Terms such as 'half-caste', the word caste is derived from the Latin word pure. The White man would unfortunately openly use derogatory words such as these to describe mixed-race persons, no matter what the percentage.

    This behaviour then spreads within the ethnic minorities too, to a point where they even believed that if you were of lighter skin colour the better a person you were. This is attitude still prevalent today to some degree.

    You have to remember that being 'black' is not just the percentage split between parental colour, it's the way of life and the way person is perceived. On first encounter all the mixed raced people listed above (Obama, Marley, Berry, Hendrix and Wharton) would be described as black and it is more likely they would have grown up with the challenges faced by a 'black' person rather than the privileges of a 'white' person.

    If Mr. Wharton was negative, nasty and no-good character from within history would there be the same clamour or queries highlighting his mixed heritage, I think not.

    Anyway, back to the blog.......great article and great man period (regardless of his colour, creed or ethnicity).

  • Comment number 42.

    18. At 17:39pm on 28th Mar 2011, adolfinho - Doing it for Pilks wrote:
    By the way, the first black Oscar-winner was Hattie McDaniel in 1939 (Best Supporting Actress - Gone With The Wind).

    ________________________________________________________________________

    I believe that the racial issues at this time meant that she was not aloud to either be presented with the award or go to the premier (I forget which it is)

  • Comment number 43.

    Don't forget Walter Tull. He was the second person of Afro-Caribbean/mixed heritage to play in the top division of the Football League, the first Afro-Caribbean/mixed heritage outfield player in the top division of English football, and the first to be commissioned as an infantry officer in the British Army.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Tull

    And I'm very proud to say that he's from my hometown of Folkestone (we could do with him now at Folkestone Invicta FC).

  • Comment number 44.

    Excellent piece, thank you for taking the time to write it. It's nice to see that there are a couple of blogs on BBC Sport that are worthy of the name.

  • Comment number 45.

    If only he were still playing around this time. I would have loved to watch him play again. It's great that you gave him a great write up like this!

    Jan | Football

  • Comment number 46.

    what a magnificent moustache

  • Comment number 47.

    For sure Arthur would have suffered back then for his origins and its good to hear he is being properly remembered.

    To see how far times and attitudes have changed I need look no further than my son's junior team which plays in leafy Surrey. Diverse is written large.
    Over half the team could be termed mixed heritage; except for my son all were born in England within a few miles of the club but can currently count five continents amongst their families origins. Chosen purely for their football skills.
    We've yet to experience anything suggestive of racism.

  • Comment number 48.

    Afternoon all, thanks for reading/commenting and apologies for not replying earlier. But better late than never...

    Rabster et al (3) - Must admit that I hadn't heard of Andrew Watson until I researched this blog but his name came up in quite a few articles on Wharton, making clear that while Watson's Scotland caps predated Wharton he never actually played professionally. As this blog was about Wharton, and specifically tonight's ceremony at the England-Ghana game, I didn't want to broaden things out too much, particularly as Wharton's life is pretty difficult to squeeze into 1,000 words...and I wanted to mention Sheila Leeson and Shaun Campbell, whose different but supporting roles in the Wharton "revival" are key parts of the story. All that said, I think it says it all that I hadn't heard of Watson (I knew bits of the Wharton story already). When I think about how groundbreaking figures like Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson are viewed in the US, we really should celebrate the likes of Watson and Wharton more vocally.

    Somegibbon (8) - Hear, hear...but we're not there yet, are we? Getting closer, though.

    Herc 606er in exile (13) - I fear you may be partly right but let's not be too judgemental...different times, different social norms. I also got the impression from Sheila, who didn't seem remotely bothered by the racial make-up of her forebears (just the opposite, she sounded really proud of Wharton), that the "family secret" was more to do with Arthur being a bit of a rogue towards the end. I don't think the drinking helped either. But I didn't push it as the family history seemed a bit convoluted and AW clearly suffered more than his share of hard knocks. Can't have been easy being a middle-class chap from Ghana in the Yorkshire mines of the 1920s...tough times.

    ger (15) - Not sure what your point is, old bean. Do I claim any pioneer status in telling this story? No, just the opposite. I include links to BBC articles that go back to 2003, not to mention FourFourTwo's write-up of the FA press release that a few of us were sent last week. What I didn't find anywhere else, however, is any up-to-date attempt to interview Sheila about the family history or Shaun about the statue campaign.

    Michiganflicker (24) - I'm surprised somebody hasn't had a crack at Wharton's life already. But there have been smaller efforts on TV and radio. AW featured in a BBC4 programme a few years ago about black football pioneers and he's also been the subject of a BBC Radio4 "Great Lives" prog. But there's plenty there for the film-makers to get their teeth into.

    Richardk (33) - Great shout re Albert Johanneson. I think I remember reading somewhere that he fell on hard times post-football too...booze etc.

    No comment from me re: Halle Berry, apart from saying that I think she is probably more mediocre than terrible but Monsters Ball was by far her best film and performance. Can't remember the Oscar competition that year but my guess would be that it wasn't a bumper year and HB's role was exactly the kind of performance the Academy members go nuts for.

    As for the debate about black v mixed race, I think jay842 (41) summed it up best.

    There is one other thing to remember about the likes of Wharton and Watson, late 19th century Britain wasn't a great time or place to be anything other than white. Notions of white supremacy were pretty much imbedded (the empire, White Man's Burden, Social Darwinism and so on) so the AWs were up against it.

  • Comment number 49.

    Sorry, but i can never see the point in blogs and articles like this. The guy came over here and played football etc etc and sadly died a pauper. Why is it worthy of note just because hes a coloured guy? With all this ' the first black' for this and that and whatever, its ever likely coloured people develop complexes about race and quite rightly so.

  • Comment number 50.

    thank you

  • Comment number 51.

    Being called "Darkie Wharton" doesn't mean he was subject to racism.

  • Comment number 52.

    Great blog - and now I want to know about Andrew Watson. Sounds like both players could have played for Scotland!

    Re: the debates about mixed race and black, it really makes no odds as at some level we are all mixed race - what's the dividing line: three quarters, five eighths? What do you call the child of two mixed race parents, four mixed race grand parents, etc. I Carolina I understand the rule was one eighth black or something similarly ridiculous.

    The real point is that it has NOTHING much to do with genetics - it is simply about societal prejudice regarding visible minorities. And "Darkie" does suggest that he was certainly identified by some as black (or more poignantly non white).

  • Comment number 53.

    "36. At 23:31pm on 28th Mar 2011, AllanB wrote:
    Yes not a bad read and sounds like a great sportsman but I totally agree with #8 that whilst we continue celebrating the 'first black...' racism wont go away! Whilst some of these, previously thought, minorities (e.g. blacks, women, asians etc.) may like recognition I suspect some would just like to finally be seen as full equals instead of still, in a way, being segregated! I know I would if I were in their shoes..
    "

    Sounds like he wasn't celebrated at the time hence the commemoration of his memory and relevant to the first match between England and Ghana given his roots. People of all backgrounds are celebrated for overcoming barriers and this is how it should be. And the barriers are real alas even if they are starting to fall.

    But the other side is that black children growing up in this country are aware of the difference of their skin colour for whatever reason to society's "norm". So pioneers who they identify with who break barriers help build their pride and self-confidence and importantly allow them to feel an intrinsic part of British history.

    I know this because as a second generation Scot I feel pride for the achievements of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace even though they happened seven hundred years ago;)

  • Comment number 54.

    #41 - great post. Good summary.

  • Comment number 55.

    8. At 15:35pm on 28th Mar 2011, SomeGibbon wrote:
    Perhaps once we no longer have to say someone is the first 'black' or first 'white' something rather than just first person/sportsman, etc we can celebrate that racism has finally gone away and that our colour is irrelevant.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    These achievements need to be remembered... this is arguably the start of anti-racism.

    Granted, racism has no part to play in today's society but we need to acknowledge 'pioneers' whom withstood racism to compete in the world of football and be remembered as men who set precedents that sport condones racism even at such an early period in the history of football.

    Aware of past histories = History NOT repeating itself!

  • Comment number 56.

    Someone else mentioned Walter Tull above, his is a fascinating life story too. Think he was the first black professional top flight footballer in England, playing for Spurs and Northampton before WWI broke out. He was recognised as a leader and was highly respected by his men, and even became a 2nd Lieutenant despite the 1914 Manual of Military Law specifically excluding Negroes/Mulattos from exercising actual command as officers, he was even recommended for a Military Cross.

  • Comment number 57.

    Well, Matt, as you say in your later post, this isn't anything new. Anyone who has looked at the history of black people in England already knew of Arthur Wharton & I don't think being called 'Darkie Wharton' was racist in the way we would think today (tho' deep down I'm sure this name was a bit iffy!).

    The point is surely that we have ignored the presence of black people & their contribution to the UK throughout our history (apart from the huge impact slavery had on the UK & its economy). Black Britons need to see that it's not only the fact that the whites enslaved them but that they had a presence here (albeit relatively small) & made a contribution to British society.

    There's a picture of a black centurion in England; there were black people in England in Tudor times; Mary Seacole did amazing work in the Crimean War. Black people are part of our history but we need to tell people this & make them aware of this fact. If your piece helps to tell their story to a wider audience it can only be to the good.

  • Comment number 58.

    To paraphrase (poorly) Terry Pratchett:
    Racism wont be a problem anymore until Aliens arrive, as specieism will be far more fun. Black and white will live in perfect harmony, when they can gang up on green. ;)

  • Comment number 59.

    "Before long the retired schoolteacher, now 79, had found her grandfather's unmarked grave and, with the help of historian Phil Vasili, put together the pieces of his later years."

    You will find his grave in the cemetery in the ex-mining village of Edlington, nr Doncaster.

  • Comment number 60.

    I think this is a great story, and well written. I had never heard of Arthur Wharton, nor Andrew Watson for that matter. After reading about both, I can see why recognition should go to both, and it appears that the FA have jumped on it, rightly so with their donation of 20,000 pounds.

    The fact Andrew Watson was not a Pro, does not come into this, the guy played football at the highest level, at that time, which apparently his skin colour never being given a second thought. And also at a time when Football was very popular, so I do suspect that Watson did play the bigger games, with bigger audiences.

    If any recognition is to be given to Andrew Watson, then probably it should be done by the SFA. However As I wrote his skin colour was never givne a second thought, mainly because racism, I believe has never been as big as an issue in Scotland, as it is/was in England.

    Good blog.

  • Comment number 61.

    As a Baggies fan, I couldn't help but notice how Arthur Wharton resembled our very own Brendan Batson during his playing days...and he along with King Cyrille was at the presentation last night. What a team Regis, Batson, Cunningham, Brown, Robson, Statham, Wile, Robertson, Johnston etc...there I go, back into my West Brom Wonderland again

  • Comment number 62.

    Great blog about a remarkable man who hopefully will start to get the recognition he deserves.

    I am of dual heritage as well and reading some of the posts there seems to be an ongoing discussion. Personally I think people of mixed race are often overlooked. Hamilton is of mixed race but was the first 'black' F1 World Champion. Obama is mixed race yet he is apparently the first 'black' president. Whilst I don't argue with their heritage and no doubt they are both proud of that part of themselves, and it is after all a step forward in racial equality, I am sure they are equally proud of their other heritage as well and thus should be addressed accordingly. Why should their 'black' heritage get all the credit?!?

  • Comment number 63.

    Great blog, thanks Matt.

    Anybody interested in following up on the subject of the article, might be interested to know that some football fans have been writing online about Arthur Wharton and Walter Tull since 2002.

    Search at www.footballpoets.org, where we've actively supported the likes of 'Football Unites, Racism Divides', 'Show Racism The Red Card' and 'Kick It Out'.

    Andrew Watson certainly sounds like an interesting subject worthy of more attention.

  • Comment number 64.

    Nah, this is a wind up isn't it. That's Sacha Baron Cohen.

    Ali G 'is it cause i is black'?

  • Comment number 65.

    Wasn't Bill Perry that wonderfully skillful Blackpool left winger and scorer of the winning goal in the famous 1953 final considered a 'Cape Coloured' and first coloured player to play for England.

    Had it not been for Tom Finney I'm sure he would have won more than the few England caps he did.

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    I think all the people debating Wharton’s colour are thoroughly missing the point. His father was mixed race as we know it, that he has Scottish blood from this aspect his heritage is neither here nor there. Here is a man of colour achieving great things in a then non-multicultural Britain. That is what is being recognised here.

    Ditto Lewis Hamilton, people are still complaining about him being referred to as the first black F1 champion. Yes he is mixed White/Black but how many white champions has F1 produced in comparison to black? it's a ratio of like ALL to 1, so what would be the media’s motivationino concentrating solely on his or Obama’s white heritage instead, and where would that take us as a society?

    To my mind in these instances the media are 100% correct in focusing on the achievement of these men of colour where before there was none in (F1 for example) as opposed to attempting to portray them in any other light.

  • Comment number 68.

    #67 Its all about divide and conquer;) People forget that the term black itself when used to describe people of an African heritage was coined as a front of solidarity against racism which often seeks to divide by sub-dividing (as apartheid formalised). Black isn't a description of colour or even direct parentage more a means of reinforcing pride and identity in people's African roots which is directly and indirectly targeted by racism.

  • Comment number 69.

    Good read.i,m kenyan and i always believe racism is a white man,s disease.in kenya we,re very appreciate of 'white'kenyans for example our famous kenyan swimmers,the
    Dunfords.i actually feel quite weird using the word white.all in all...good piece of history

  • Comment number 70.

    He pre dates the great Walter Tull,whose achievements arguably far exceed Wharton's. I think people get over heated about the appaling racism of the 50's 60's and 70's and blithely assume it must have been worse back then.There were certainly establishment barriers(they too applied to working class people),but have a read of Victorian books like 'Redburn' by Herman Melville who comments (in 1855) how the black sailors the ship he came to Liverpool from New York with were able to openly go around Liverpool with a white girl on their arm or go to any eatery and be served-a far contrast from 'The Land of the Free' where even in 'liberal'New York they (the black sailors) would have been lynched for' such audacities'. Britain has always been pretty good-and I don't deny the racism that does go on-but the anti race industry does go OTT at times and creates tensions where none existed(ie are part of the problem).In Spain and mainland Europe its still "hilarious" to black up and abuse black F1 sportsmen(remember it?).No one would even think of that here and would be angrily osracised if they did.
    As for mixed race(like Wharton).....then Viv Anderson then WASN'T the first black player to play for England. That prize goes to (mixed race) Paul Reaney in the late 60's.

  • Comment number 71.

    Who was the first professional footballer? Would that not be a bigger achievement?

    People continue whining that there is "no room for racism in the modern world". yet we have "the first black / first white" to do whatever. We get reminded when any sportsman is "black" but never when he/she is "white". We have associations open only to "blacks"but do not (the world would scream "racism") associations open only to whites.

    Then we have people who argue about just how "black" a person is, as if it matters. If there is a distinction, then surely just one drop of "black blood" (I always thought everyone - even blue blooded Royals - actually had red blood) would make someone "black".

    This does not make it a bad/irrelevant article - only the "black" part is. The rest is pretty darned good.

    What a versatile sportsman Mr Wharton was. An amazing talent. Thank you for sharing his story with us. Made interesting reading.

  • Comment number 72.

    When I grew up my dad said that this bloke was coming to work for us. "He is from the Black Country". He said.
    When he arrived I was surprised to see that he was white!
    We lived in Bournemouth and all became clear when he started to speak.
    No-one could understand a word that he said!
    I guess that racism is all a question of perspective.
    He was obviously a foreigner!

  • Comment number 73.

    Not a forgotten Pioneer here in Preston, and I'm sure we'd be happy to have his statue outside the ground if that's where they deem to place it. Indeed he already features on PNE themed buses. However, have to agree with some of the comments that 'celebrating' the achievements of people just for being black or mixed race is probably counter productive.

    Footballers should be remembered for being great, like Tom Finney, not because of the colour of their skin. As a Liverpool fan, I will always remember John Barnes with the same fondness as I do Robbie Fowler.....however Djimi Traore will probably be long forgotten along with Sean Dundee (at least in on the pitch terms).

  • Comment number 74.

    utebog...ar bist ya kid?

  • Comment number 75.

    davidcbillington... I rest my case!
    I dont care what colour you are. TALK TO ME!!!!
    I am brown because I play golf in Australia in summer.
    I aint going to show you the white bits!

  • Comment number 76.

    For all those interested in the story of Andrew Watson, the University of Glasgow has a biography about him as he was a student at the University in 1875. Please see his entry on the The University of Glasgow Story.

  • Comment number 77.

    ... and talking of Glasgow - don't forget Celtic's first black player - the Jamaican Gil Heron (father of the brilliant musician and precurser of rap - Gil Scott-Heron). By the way David Goldblatt mentions Arthur Wharton in his masterly book on the history of world football - the Ball is Round.
    fradeb

  • Comment number 78.

    wow, what an inspiring history of a true Legend. Credit to all those who have made this possible.
    This is a complete example to how great people in past and present have been denied their due recognition. As a result, too many people are astrayed due to the lack of true inspirators. All we are left with is bunch of made up and self professed icons.

  • Comment number 79.

    Is Rio Ferdinand black? That seems a stretch.

  • Comment number 80.

    Jesus the Teddy Bear wrote:

    "I know its off topic on what is a good blog, but the whole Hale Berry thing about her being a Black pioneer really annoys me.

    They hype it because she was the first black Oscar winner, when in fact it was Whoopi Goldberg for her role in Ghost ( http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000155/awards)"

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The first black oscar winner was Hattie McDaniel who won it in 1939 for her role in 'Gone with the Wind'. Fact the rest is of course opinion.

    If people of mixed heritage like Halle Berry, Rio Ferdinand etc. regard themselves as black then thats fine for me. It's funny how many people are now quibbling whether mixed race people should be allowed to regard themselves as black now that there are so many mixed race people visibly succeeding. The white community didn't appear to want to 'own' them when their success was less visible as Madness once alluded to.

    http://www.metrolyrics.com/embarrassment-lyrics-madness.html

 

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