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First black footballer statue is still shining

LANDMARK: The sixteen-foot statue which honours the world's first black professional footballer

THIS WEEK marks the third anniversary of the unveiling of the 16-foot statue that honours the life of Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer.

The permanent memorial resides at the Football Association’s St. George’s Park facilty in Burton-on-Trent.

The statue, by acclaimed sculptor Vivien Mallock, stands in the centre of the St. George's Cross in the memorial garden at the entrance to the National Football Centre.

PICTURED: Arthur Wharton

Wharton was born in Ghana in 1865, moved to the UK in 1882 and was signed by Darlington at the age of 19. He had moved to Darlington with the intention of training as a Methodist missionary but opted instead to become a full-time athlete.

During a career that spanned 17 years, he went on to play as a goalkeeper for Preston North End, Rotherham Town, Sheffield United and Stockport County.

Not just skilled with a ball, Wharton was a true all-round athlete.

In 1886 he became the Amateur Athletics Association's national 100-yard running champion – and became the first man to run 100 yards in ten seconds flat.

HOMAGE: The Voice's sports editor, Rodney Hinds, with the accompanying plaque

St George’s Park also celebrated in the week, it first opened its doors five years ago.

Paul Elliott, chair of The FA’s inclusion advisory board, outlined how the organisation is continually working towards helping the game be more inclusive and diverse from the top.

“The FA has a duty of care. We’re here to serve the game and everybody who loves it.

“Of course, the FA has had its challenges and will continue to be challenged. But the great thing is there’s a strong will and desire to keep improving. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have that confidence.

“We try to set the example that the FA is inclusive, it is diverse and in keeping with our message of football For All.

“We know where we have to improve. We still know where we need to go. We’re constantly evolving all the time."

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