Lotto grant takes tale of first black footballer into schools

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HE WAS the world’s first black professional footballer.

Now the story of Arthur Wharton is to be captured in full for the first time thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The £117,000 grant will enable Sheffield-based organisation Football Unites, Racism Divides to tell schoolchildren Arthur played for Sheffield United and Rotherham Town among a number of northern football clubs in the 1890s.

It will also explain he set the world record for the 100 yard sprint in 1886.

The grant and financial backing from the PFA will pay for a film-making project that will document Wharton’s life and be distributed to schools, community groups and football clubs.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, a campaigner against racism and supporter of the project, said: “The story of Arthur Wharton’s life is a powerful message that race and background should not be a barrier to talent.

“Football Unites, Racism Divides do outstanding work using football to bring people from different backgrounds together.

“I know that by taking Arthur’s remarkable story into schools and the community, they will be able to break down more barriers.”

Arthur Wharton was born in Jamestown in 1865 to a half-Granadian-half-Scottish father, and a Ghanaian mother.

He was educated during the early 1880s in Britain.

Officially the fastest runner in the world from 1886 until 1888, he became the first black athlete to win the 100 yards at the Amateur Athletics Association’s Championship in 1886, later turning professional to win the world sprint championship.

His footballing career started at Preston North End before he was signed professionally at Rotherham Town to become the world’s first paid black footballer.