Arthur Wharton was the world's first black professional footballer, and the first African to play professional cricket in Yorkshire and Lancashire leagues. Those promoting Empire as an expression of white supremacy found him a supreme irritation, and he eventually died in poverty.
Table of ContentsFour Four Two - April 1998
"That Wharton was remembered at all is down to journalistic persistence and exhaustive research on the part of author Phil Vasili, who followed a number of small leads to build a picture of his life, having first been alerted to Wharton"s existence by an article about his athletic exploits."
The Guardian, 3/4/99
"Wharton almost certainly wasn"t the first black professional footballer but his life, lovingly researched by Vasili, was full of incident and irony."
BBC Focus on Africa, Oct-Dec 99
"Come to it as a reader in working-class culture, a historian of colonial relations, or simply just as someone looking for the greatest Ghanaian footballer before Yeboah, but you will surely not begrudge the cover price."
Newcastle Upon Tyne Journal
"Phil Vasili has managed to weave together the many strands of the African"s life to portray a complex, proud, and perhaps self-destructive man raging against the racist and class-ridden society of Victorian colonial Britain."
West Africa, 21/12/98
"The most crucial aspect of The First Black Footballer is that it is not just a book about a soccer player"s life. It is a book on British social history; how non-whites living in Britain had to cope constantly with racism from every quarter ... A welcome addition to academic works on sport."
Doncaster Free Press, 19/11/98
"It is well worth reading this well-researched book to find out as much as possible about this forgotten local hero."
Black and Asian Studies Association Newsletter, January 99
"A fascinating account of a man who was truly a forgotten pioneer."
Independent on Sunday, 22/11/98
"Having painstakingly tracked evry last scrap of information available, he [Vasili] pieced together this precious portrait of a remarkable sporting pioneer."
Sheffield Telegraph, 2/10/98
"May turn out ot be the book of the decade ... The book is a triumph of research ... The First Black Footballer will rightly be hailed as the most conspicuously absent volume from the library of British sport. ... A fitting memorial."
"The author does a particularly good job of showing why the achievements of black sportsmen such as Wharton had to be purged from the records, because these achievements had serious consequences for notions of white supremacy and the systematic racism running through Victorian society ... Football enthusiast Vasili is clearly engaged on a mission here of rehabilitation and reconciliation.