|

Arthur, Arthur What’s the Score

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 That’s Arthur leaning coolly on his new headstone,
nodding to the people without visitors or flowers.
Born in Accra, buried with the home fans,
provocative to the last, brave and eccentric as his saves.

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 That’s Arthur Wharton, the beautiful young man
with the Rotherham tache that grows without light.
Punching, barging, taking crap –‘darky’–
giving back, a ‘goal-custodian’, in the language of the day.

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 Arthur was a ‘pedestrian’ an athlete, a hundred
yards in ten seconds. Holder of the World Record,
a working-class hero when he ran and kept goal.
That’s Arthur playing for Rotherham Town.

4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 The Higuita of his time; he’d jump, grasp the bar
and catch the ball between his legs. My Dad says
Frank Swift used to save a penalty and roll the ball
back: ‘Have another shot’. It’s true! Saved, Arthur!

5 Leave a comment on verse 5 0 He was a Preston ‘Invincible’; but none of us are
without someone to come out and catch us.
Arthur slipped out of his own hands. But look
he has words now to confirm that he lived and died.

6 Leave a comment on verse 6 0 And I’ll bring a football next time and friends
for a kick-in (though the only kicking will be us: ‘Out!’).
That’s Arthur, practising the scorpion save,
Arthur, Arthur give us a wave!

2

Notes

Arthur Wharton was buried in an unmarked grave in Edlington Cemetery in 1930, Football Unites, Racism Divides organised a memorial fund to pay for a headstone in 1997

I read this poem at the launch of the ‘In a League of His Own’ exhibition at Doncaster Museum on 25 October. This celebrates the life of Arthur Wharton the first black footballer who was buried in an unmarked grave in 1930. Football Unites, Racism Divides, in Sheffield, for whom I have been writer in residence, raised funds for a headstone in 1997. A link to the FURD website, www.furd.org would give more information on Arthur and FURD in general.

Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/arthur-arthur-whats-the-score/