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Arthur Wharton
Arthur Wharton
Britain's first black footballer

Arthur Wharton was born in Ghana in 1865; his father was half Grenadian and half Scottish, and his mother was from Ghanaian royalty. In 1882 Arthur moved to England to train as a missionary, but quickly became bored with the academic and religious life and left school to pursue a sporting career.

A talented athlete, he set a new world record for the 100 yard dash (10 seconds) at Stamford Bridge in 1886. This success gave him the opportunity to compete in professional athletics tournaments, where he was able to make a living from appearance fees. His abilities also brought him to the attention of various professional football clubs

He was first signed as a semi professional player with Preston North End in 1886, as goalkeeper. His highpoint with Preston was to make it to the FA Cup semi finals in 1887 where they lost 3-1 to West Bromwich Albion. There was speculation at the time that Arthur was good enough to play for England, but he was never considered for the position by the FA, due in part to the racial prejudice of the time.

He turned fully professional in 1889, when he signed for Rotherham United, and in 1894, Sheffield United poached him. Unfortunately, the move was not a success; he was getting older, and was competing with United's new and younger goalkeeper, Bill "Fatty" Foulke.

Arthur's career then drifted as he moved from club to club to try and make a living. At the same time, he started drinking heavily, and eventually retired from football in 1902. His life after retirement was not happy, and Arthur Wharton died in 1930, a penniless alcoholic who had spent the last 15 years of his life as a colliery haulage hand.

His story was uncovered in 1997 by the Sheffield United based project, "Football Unites Racism Divides". His unmarked grave in Edlington has been given a headstone, and his picture was included in an exhibition of British Sporting Heroes at the National Portrait Gallery.

Andrew Watson

First black International football player

Born in 1857 in British Guiana, Andrew Watson came to Glasgow University to acquire a bachelor of arts degree. By the time Watson came to University, aged 19, in November 1875, he had already played football for Scotland's leading team, Queens Park.
Andrew Watson was capped three times for Scotland between 1881 and 1882, and is now believed to have been the first black football (soccer) player to represent his country. He began playing in 1874 and subsequently played for Queens Park. Until this discovery, it had always been maintained that the first black footballer was Arthur Wharton, who played for the English team of Preston North End. But Watson pre-dates him by 11 years. Up until the time of Pele, Andrew Watson was perhaps the most important black player in the world, capable of playing on either side of defence or in midfield. He also went on to become the world's first black footballing administrator.

  Web Links
  Football Unites, Racism Divides
  The First Black Footballer
  A Burning Black Star
  Channel 4 video clip 

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