A new statue has been unveiled in honour of a pioneering South Yorkshire sportsman who was the world’s first black professional footballer.
The statue of former Sheffield United and Rotherham goalkeeper Arthur Wharton was unveiled at the St George’s Park national football centre in Burton yesterday in front of special guests including former players such as Les Ferdinand and Dave Regis.
Wharton came to Britain from Ghana in the 1880s and was signed by Darlington aged 19 before going on to play as a goalkeeper for Preston, Rotherham, Darlington and Sheffield United.
Despite his successful football career, which ended in 1902, Wharton was never fully accepted. After he retired, he went on to spend his working life as a colliery haulage hand in the South Yorkshire pits.
He died in December 1930 in a workhouse sanatorium in Balby, Doncaster, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Edlington.
St George’s Park chairman David Sheepshanks said he hoped the 16ft-high bronze statue by sculptor Vivien Mallock would inspire coaches from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Mr Sheepshanks said: “We want to educate and inspire a new generation of coaches and players from all backgrounds.
“This is a memorable day on our journey to doing so now the statue is up, but we don’t stop here.
“Our job is to continue helping organisations like Football Unites Racism Divides and the Arthur Wharton Foundation educate the next generation about Arthur. As an association, we need to find ways of bringing black and Asian coaches through the ranks.”
Wharton was also a champion athlete, becoming a national 100-yard running champion in 1886.