Thursday, 30 June 2011

News - 'First black footballer' celebrated (Arthur Wharton)

The life of a goalkeeper who played for Sheffield United and Rotherham town, and is considered to be the world's first black professional footballer, will be celebrated in a series of events after campaigners won a £100,000 lottery grant.

Arthur Wharton played for Darlington, Sheffield United and Rotherham Town as well as other football clubs in the north of England in the 1890s.

He also set the world record for the 100-yard sprint in 1886 at exactly 10 seconds.

Some have suggested he might have played for England if it was not for his race.

Sheffield-based community organisation Football Unites, Racism Divides (Furd) has championed Wharton's memory and in 1997 placed a headstone on his grave in Edlington, South Yorkshire.

Now it has secured a £117,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project aimed at making sure his story is more widely known.

Activities planned include a proposed film, which would be distributed to schools, community groups and football clubs, drama workshops, a travelling exhibition, a Victorian sports day, teaching packs and an interactive website.

The players' union, the Professional Footballers Association, has also backed the project financially.

Furd director Howard Holmes said: "Furd has championed the incredible sporting life of Arthur Wharton for many years but there is still so much that remains hidden.

"Arthur spent the majority of his adult life in South Yorkshire so it is fitting that young people from Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield will help produce educational materials that will spread Arthur's story far and wide."

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