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Wharton campaign gathers momentum

11 March 2014

The World’s first black professional footballer has been officially recognised at National Football Centre to kick off a year of milestones in his honour

At 125 years after becoming the world’s first black professional footballer after signing for Rotherham United in 1889, Arthur Wharton will be memorialised as a statue at St Georges Park, The National Football Centre in Burton-upon-Trent.

The Arthur Wharton Foundation, in collaboration with The Football Association, is set to unveil the full-scale statue of Arthur prominently in the grounds of the facility, which is also home to The FA’s coach education department, FA Learning. The 16ft bronze statue was designed and made by leading sculptor Vivien Mallock.

The statue will be flanked by education materials supplied by the Arthur Wharton Foundation and Sheffield based Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) project, including a comic, a film, exhibition and a range of presentations aimed at Key Stage 3 students, talking about the significance of Arthur historically and in 2014. These materials are backed by the Heritage Lottery Project and the PFA.

In addition, a second statue is due to be erected at the New York Stadium, home of Rotherham United, later in the year.

Born in Accra, Ghana, Wharton moved to England, aged 19, in 1882 and went on to feature as a goalkeeper for his home-town club Darlington FC, as well as representing Rotherham United, Preston North  End, and Sheffield United.

An all-round sportsman and athlete, Wharton became the first official 100-yard world record holder and world champion in 1886, with a time of 10 seconds at the AAA Championships in London.

Wharton was also a professional cricketer, cycling champion and rugby player in his pomp, regarded by many as one of the early pioneers and trailblazers in sport, achieving unparalleled success in the face of adversity.

Shaun Campbell, Founder of The Arthur Wharton Foundation, said: “We are hugely honoured and privileged to have received such fantastic support from The FA throughout our campaign helping raise awareness of Arthur’s achievements.

“Having a statue in Arthur’s honour erected at St. George’s Park is testament to that support, and we also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the wonderful and tangible support that we have received from other stakeholders including FIFA, UEFA, and the PFA throughout this campaign.”

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