FIFA honours pioneering Wharton
© Foto-net

In the coming months and years, visitors to the Home of FIFA in Zurich may notice a bronze statue of a goalkeeper on display and wonder who it is. Those with a keener eye may have seen the same at The FA’s Headquarters at Wembley Stadium and UEFA’s base in Nyon. Those statues are a tribute to the legacy of Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer.

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter received representatives of the Arthur Wharton Foundation at the Home of FIFA on Wednesday 6 June to take receipt of the maquette, which was produced thanks to a charitable donation by world football’s governing body. The donation will help the Foundation to continue to raise awareness of Arthur Wharton, his story and the need to embrace culture and diversity towards equality for all.

“Arthur’s story is an important part of world football culture and should be more celebrated as a pioneer and trailblazer,” said Viv Anderson, England’s first black international footballer. “It is a remarkable yet appropriate testament to Arthur that he should be recognized by the FA, UEFA and now FIFA.”

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.

After impressing as a goalkeeper at Darlington, Wharton first signed as a semi professional player with Preston North End in 1886. 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. Two years later he signed for Rotherham United as a fully-fledged professional.

I owe a lot to Arthur Wharton as he opened the door for myself and many more black players.
John Mensah, Ghana captain.

Upon the handover of the statue by the Darlington-based charity, which was presented to the FIFA President by Ghanaian celebrity Dentaa, an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of the GUBA (Ghana Uk Based Achievement) Awards.

“I’m really proud for FIFA to receive this Arthur Wharton statue,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.” It will undoubtedly have a very special place at the Home of FIFA.
“I see it as recognition for FIFA’s work against discrimination all over the world through many different activities. The Arthur Wharton Foundation works hard in the field of anti-discrimination and I like that as a principle because I always say that football unites and bring people together, it’s its aim.

“Things have changed over the years but things still need to move on, football has to bring everybody together. I congratulate the Foundation for the tremendous work they’re doing and I’m personally delighted to shake hands with its founder Shaun Campbell.”

Responding to the FIFA President’s words, Shaun Campbell said: “It’s a historic day for us and for football. This statue is a testimony of the work done by FIFA for diversity and against any type of discrimination. “

The Foundation also presented FIFA with a wooden plaque with a portrait of Wharton with a list of the clubs he played for, together with details of his own personal history. As Campbell explained, ‘it tells the story of his life.’

“To see Arthur Wharton being recognised, honoured, and celebrated at the highest echelon in football is wonderful news, both poignant and appropriate as a lasting tribute to his legacy as the world’s first black professional footballer,” continued Campbell. “The pioneering legacy that Arthur has bequeathed is far-reaching and should never be forgotten.”

Wharton’s trailblazing has also been recognized by Asamoah Gyan and John Mensah from the current generation of the Black Stars.

“It makes me proud to know that Arthur Wharton was Ghanaian, a true inspiration to myself and this statue will shine from Zurich to Ghana,” said Gyan. “His name will live on to inspire others.”

“I owe a lot to Arthur Wharton as he opened the door for myself and many more black players,” said Mensah, the current Ghana captain. “There was nobody more fitting to present this award than Dentaa, because like Arthur Wharton she also has opened doors for many in the Ghanaian community.”