FURD was present at the National Football Centre, the training hub developed by the English FA at St George`s Park, Burton-on-Trent, on 16th October to witness the unveiling of a 16 foot statue of Arthur Wharton.
The permanent memorial recognises the pioneering achievements of Wharton, the world`s first black professional footballer, and St George`s Park chairman David Sheepshanks talked at the launch of the huge potential of the statue and of Wharton`s story to inspire future generations.
The statue was created by sculptor Vivien Mallock after a long campaign by the Arthur Wharton Foundation.
The event was attended by members of Wharton`s family, former top footballers including Viv Anderson, Cyrille Regis and Paul Davis, FA representatives and representatives of the campaigns to raise Wharton`s profile.
FURD has been campaigning to raise awareness of Wharton`s story for nearly 20 years, and in 1997 a FURD fund-raising campaign enabled his grave to be given a headstone in 1997.
Howard Holmes of FURD said, `We are all very proud. A story that started so long ago in west Africa, that took so many turns, has now been recognised by the English FA.
`The statue is a milestone but the journey of legacy continues, it is one which FURD will continue to be at the centre of.`
FURD has created a range of learning resources, including a 30 minute documentary film, based on Wharton`s life as part of its Heritage Lottery funded Arthur Wharton Heritage Project. Most of the resources can be accessed through www.arthurwharton.info. The accompanying exhibition - which is available to hire from us - was on show at the statue unveiling and FURD`s Arthur Wharton comics and booklets were given to all attendees at the event.
The Heritage Project worked with local schools using Wharton`s story to inspire young people to produce art, drama and poetry, and some of the young poets, Jess Wood and the Newfield School `flash mob`poets, wowed the audience at St George`s Park with their moving performances.
The event came the day after FURD had hosted a visit by relatives of Wharton to the Arthur Wharton Archive, part of FURD`s Resources and Information Centre at its base the U-Mix Centre in Sheffield. The relatives are descendants of Arthur`s wife`s brother, and brought with them Arthur`s `birthday book`, containing notes of significant birthdays in Arthur`s own writing.