Biography series exploring the greatest people who ever lived. Matthew Parris interviews an eminent…
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Viv Anderson, the first black footballer to play for England, talks to Matthew Parris about the life of Arthur Wharton, the first black professional player.
Arthur Wharton was born in Ghana in 1865. He came to England to study, but he very quickly started to gain a reputation as an athlete, winning the 100 metres in a world record time of ten seconds. He was a superb all-round athlete, and excelled in football and cricket.
In his career he played for Preston North End, Sheffield United, Rotherham Town, Stalybridge Celtic and Ashton North End. He ended his career at Stockport County in Division Two, and, for the remainder of his working life, he laboured as a colliery haulage hand in the pits.
Wharton came from a middle class background, but his choice of a life of sport meant that a career in civil service administration was quickly closed to him, He chose to do what he loved to do, but paid a terrible price. As his playing career collapsed, he developed a drink problem, and died a penniless alcoholic.
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