A mural was unveiled in Darlington today as a testament to the world’s first black professional footballer. PETER BARRON was there

AFTER 12 years of campaigning tirelessly to put Arthur Wharton on the pedestal he so richly deserves, Shaun Campbell woke up this morning “a bag of nerves”.

Today was the day a stunning mural was officially unveiled in artistic salute to a man who once played in goal for Darlington Football Club, and became not only the world’s first black professional footballer, but the fastest man on the planet.

And for Shaun Campbell, it represented the latest milestone in his glorious obsession to fully recognise Arthur’s achievements.

“The nerves came from the realisation of what a momentous day this is,” said Shaun. “I know how much this means – for Darlington to finally have a meaningful testament to the icon that is Arthur Wharton.”

Born in Ghana on October 28, 1865, Arthur came to Darlington as a 19-year-old to train to be a missionary. But his incredible sporting talents were to shape his destiny.

As well as making history as the first professional black footballer, he became the world’s fastest man over 100 yards in a race at Stamford Bridge, in London, in 1886. He also just happened to be a record-breaking cyclist, cricketer and rugby player too.

Now, at long last, his image looks down proudly from the red brick wall of the Arthur Wharton Foundation building, in Widdowfield Street, Darlington.

The mural, created by celebrated graffiti artist Jay Kaes, and commissioned by BT Sport, it is a thing of beauty, with a stare capturing the steely determination that made Arthur the world’s greatest all-round athlete of his day.

And, fittingly, as he officially unveiled the artwork, the Mayor of Darlington, Councillor Chris McEwan, was presented with a traditional ‘kente cloth’, from Ghana, to mark the auspicious occasion.

The Mayor went on to describe the unveiling as “an absolute honour” – even daring to suggest that the Arthur Wharton mural might one day rival The Angel of the North.

“It is right and proper that Darlington recognises Arthur Wharton in this way, particularly during Black History Month,” he said. “But in paying tribute to Arthur Wharton, we must also recognise the incredible work of Shaun Campbell.”

The Mayor is quite right. Without Shaun Campbell’s dedication, children in Darlington would grow up, not knowing of the magnificent, pioneering exploits of Arthur Wharton – but now they will.

Also wearing a kente cloth around his neck, Shaun announced: “Arthur’s legacy must be to make meaningful change to race relations, discrimination, and working towards equality for all. Until black history is fed into the education structure, and the workplace, black lives will never truly matter as they should to people in power and authority.

“What we are doing today is connecting the present, with the past – for the future.”

And the future is already taking shape. The next stage in Shaun’s vision is to embed the Arthur Wharton Foundation into the local community – and to create a football pitch and running track on the historic Denes, the green areas directly outside the centre.

“We’re going to find the next champion from Darlington – the next Arthur Wharton,” said Shaun, with a smile.

And whenever the children from local schools kick a ball as hard as they can, or run as fast as their legs will carry them, they will do so under the gaze of a true sporting giant.