A PIONEERING North-East footballer has been honoured at an awards ceremony in London.
Arthur Wharton was the world’s first black professional player when he turned out for Darlington in 1885.
Shaun Campbell, of the Darlington-based Arthur Wharton Foundation, accepted a posthumous lifetime achievement award on Wharton’s behalf at the Ghana UK -Based Achievement awards on November 10.
Mr Campbell said: “The night was excellent. Really celebratory, really dignified.”
The award was presented by former Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton and Nancy Dell'Olio, who have both supported the foundation since its early stages.
Athlete Christine Ohuruogu and Labour MP Diane Abbott were also among those attending the event.
The presentation was accompanied by a short film produced by a BBC documentary team that has been following the foundation’s work during the last two years.
Mr Campbell said he was “so touched” by the footage.
The full documentary, titled ‘Realising Arthur’, will be released after the unveiling of a full-sized statue of Wharton at an as-yet-undisclosed location.
Mr Campbell has already travelled to Switzerland and Ghana this year to present smaller statues of Wharton to FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Ghanaian FA vice-president Fred Crentsil.
He said both moments were “equally emotional and poignant, because the statue belongs in both places”.
He added that it was important for the foundation to maintain a direct connection with Wharton’s birthplace of Accra, formerly known as Jamestown, in Ghana.
He said it had been beautiful to see players at a pre-presentation match wearing Arthur Wharton shirts, paid for by Ghanaian coffee firm Armejaro.
The foundation’s success looks set to continue as the FA has agreed to make Wharton a part of its 150th anniversary celebrations next year.
In the meantime, Mr Campbell and the foundation are committed to supporting the construction of a sea wall in the old port area of Jamestown, where disrepair is threatening the livelihoods of local people.
Closer to home, when asked about English football’s recent struggles with racism, Mr Campbell said: “We’ve been very involved in the current issues in football. We’re here to work towards the embracing of culture and diversity.”