Arthur Wharton: The First Black Professional Footballer


Arthur was born in Jamestown, in Accra. His parents were Henry Wharton and Annie Florence Egyriba. He moved to England when he was aged 19 to become an athlete. He was an all rounded person. In 1886, he set a world record of 10seconds in the 100-yard Sprint Championship. He played crickets, and cycled in Yorkshire and Lancashire as well. Arthur is remembered for his professional football skills.

He started by being a goal keeper. He was part of the Preston North End’s team that reached FA cup semifinals in 1886 to 1887. He played for Preston North End from 1886 to 1888. He was described as one of the best goal keepers in the news. He then left Preston in 1888 to concentrate on his athlete skills.

Arthur Wharton, Sheffield United goalkeeper

In 1888, Wharton volunteered to play for Sheffield Wednesday versus his former side, Preston North End, but Preston won by 8 goals to 1. Wharton was blamed for the poor performance of Sheffield Wednesday. People feared he would cause violence as he left. After he failed to impress Sheffield, he went to play in 1889 for Rotherham. In 1890, he married Miss Emma Lister there. In 1891, he became a landlord of the Albert Tavern.

In 1894, Arthur moved to Sheffield United. He played 3 games for Sheffield making it to the top flight. In 1896, he went to Stalybridge then moved to Ashton in 1897 where he opened a shop, which went bankrupt. He later returned to Stalybridge to play for Stockport in 1901. As he played he starred as a winger too.

Arthur Wharton

Arthur later developed a drinking habit. He retired from football in 1902 and started working in Edlington with his wife, Emma. In 1911, when the World War I began, he joined the British Home Guard and volunteered to give his life by defending Britain. He died on 12th December, 1930, aged 65. He was buried in a pauper’s grave. His grave had a headstone after 1997 campaign.

Arthur’s statue is at St George’s Park, Burton

In 2003, he was added to the Football Hall Of Fame in England as a recognition of the impact he made on football and a statue has been built in Rotherham to acknowledge his achievements with the football game. 


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