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Arthur Wharton -probably the first Black professional footballer in the world

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

Arthur Wharton (28 October 1865 – 12 December 1930) is widely considered to be the first Black professional footballer in the world. He played as a goalkeeper for clubs as Darlington Football Club, Rotherham Town, Preston North End and Sheffield United.

Though not the first Black player outright – the amateurs Robert Walker, of Queen's Park, and Scotland international player, Andrew Watson, predate him (possibly a professional before Arthur Wharton for Bootle F.C. in 1887) – Wharton may have been the first Black professional and the first to play in the Football League.

Wharton was born in Jamestown, Gold Coast (now Accra, Ghana). His father Henry Wharton was a Grenadian missionary of Scottish and African-Caribbean descent, while his mother, Annie Florence Egyriba was a member of the Fante Ghanaian royalty. Wharton moved to England in 1882 at the age of 19, to train as a Methodist missionary, but soon abandoned this in favour of becoming a full-time athlete.

He was an all-round sportsman – in 1886, he equalled the amateur world record of 10 seconds for the 100-yard sprint in the AAA championship. He was also a keen cyclist and cricketer, playing for local teams in Yorkshire and Lancashire. However, Wharton is best remembered for his exploits as a footballer; while he was not the first mixed-heritage footballer in the United Kingdom — leading amateurs Robert Walker and Scotland international Andrew Watson predate him, however Wharton was the first mixed-heritage footballer to turn professional.


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