Just a reminder: The world’s first Black Footballer came from Ghana!
Here at Me Firi Ghana we of course like to celebrate all things Ghanaian and nothing brings us more joy than showcasing true pioneers.
Well, how many of you knew that the first ever black footballer originated from Ghana? Yep, you heard right, Arthur Wharton is that such person. Born in Ghana in 1865, when it was known as the Gold Coast, he sailed to Britain as a trainee missionary but sensed a different vocation after winning the Amateur Athletic Association‘s 100-yard sprint at Stamford Bridge in a world record 10 seconds.
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 was a multi-talented sportsman, and football became his main interest and he was Preston’s goalkeeper in the year before their unbeaten 1888-89 season. He was also understudy to the celebrated William ‘Fatty’ Foulke at Sheffield United, and played for Darlington. When Wharton died in 1930, he was buried in an unmarked grave, but a campaign to recognise his achievements, led by his grand-daughter Sheila Leeson, the Football Unites Racism Divides group and the Arthur Wharton Foundation, has gathered pace. It is incredible to think that 121 years ago an African footballer was playing his trade in England. Thus in a season where racism has reared its ugly head on a couple of occasions, it is refreshing to reflect on the impact a black footballer was having on the English game all those years ago.
Arthur Wharton paved the way for the Viv Andersons and John Barnes of this world who were among the first black players to play for the England national team. His was riches to rags story. His mother was a member of the Gold Coast royal family, and they paid for him not only to come to England but to be educated privately. He was supposed to train as a missionary but soon realised he was an exceptional athlete. What a story!
Therefore Mr Arthur Wharton; Me Firi Ghana salutes you!
Ben JK Anim-Antwi(Kwesi)