Natasha HenryComment


Natasha HenryComment

Natasha Henry continues a review of the footballing figures that have inspired her.


Ask anyone who the greatest ever footballer is, and Edison Arantes do Nascimento will always be in the Top Two. The Brazilian is adored not only for his skills and attitude on the pitch, but for his gentlemanly conduct off of it. Brazil's all time top goalscorer with 77 goals from 92 caps; he played most of his professional career at Santos, Brazil's most successful club side.

Pelé was discovered by Waldemar de Brito, and made his début for the club at the age of 15 before making his first appearance for the national side the next year.  He won his first World Cup in 1958 aged 17 years and 249 days.  The youngster scored a brace in the final against Sweden, which Brazil won 5-2.  Swedish player Sigvard Parling later said: "When Pelé scored the fifth goal in that Final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding".

At the end of the game, Pelé passed out and,  once checked out by medical staff, wept as he was congratulated by his teammates.

And so the legend began. He is still the only footballer to take part in three World-Cup winning squads and although he only played one game in the 1962 tournament, FIFA awarded him with a medal in November 2007. As well as being the only World Cup England have won, 1966 was famous for the Brazilians not getting past the group stages, largely due to the brutal fouling Pelé received.

During his 18 years at Santos, Pelé collected a total of 25 trophies; including ten Campeonao Paulista's, eight of which came between 1960 and 1969, four Torneio Rio-São's and two Copa Libertadores and numerous individual top player and top scorer awards.  From his two marriages, he is the father to three daughters and two sons.  Since his official retirement, he has become and ambassador for many organisations including the United Nations as well as creating his own sportswear line.

John Barnes

You've got to hold and give / But do it at the right time / You can be slow or fast / But you must get to the line / They'll always hit you and hurt you / Defend and attack /There's only one way to beat them / Get round the back / So catch me if you can / Coz I'm an England man / And what you're looking at / Is the master plan /

Besides his amazing skills as a lyricist and rapper (!), John Barnes was also a well respected footballer for club and country.  At one time Barnes, was England's most capped black player with 79 appearances although Ashley Cole has now overtaken him./

At 17, the Jamaican born winger started his career at Watford after he had been seen playing for non-league Sudbury Court. He played one match for Watford Reserves before he signed for the club for the cost of a new kit! How times have changed....

It was his move to Liverpool in 1987 that he is most remembered for, with Sir Alex Ferguson  admitting in his biography that he regretted not signing Barnes at this time. Even in his first season he was a key member of a title-winning team that included John Aldridge and Peter Beardsley with Barnes being voted PFA Player of the Year. After that season, he went onto win another league title, two FA Cups, three Charity Shields and a League Cup with the reds.

Barnes was very vocal about the racial abuse he suffered in his early Liverpool career, claiming that some Liverpool fans sent him letters urging him not to join the club. He scored 84 goals from midfield in his 314 games at the club before going on to play for Newcastle United and Charlton Athletic.

Unfortunately his managerial career never matched up to his time on the pitch, with spells at Celtic, Jamaica and Tranmere Rovers all ending rather sourly.

Sol Campbell

Born Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell, Sol may be more famous now for crossing the great North London divide but to most he was the epitome of the modern day defender; strong, quick and able to play the ball out of defence. A youth player at West Ham United, where he started as a striker, and then Tottenham Hotspur, it was at White Hart Lane that he started his professional career.

A graduate of the FA's School of Excellence at Lilleshall he spent nine years at the Lane before jumping ship on a free transfer to join the Arsene Wenger revolution at Arsenal. His decision proved justifiable as he won the double of the Premier League and the FA Cup in 2001/02, his first full season at the club.

Campbell spent five years at Arsenal, which included the Invincible's season of 2003/04. Of his eight goals, his most famous for the club was the opener in the UEFA Champions League final against Barcelona, which the Gunners went on to lose 2-1 after goalkeeper Jens Lehman's early sending-off. In 2008, he was voted number 15 in a "Gunners' Greatest 50 Players" poll. Before he left, he had picked up a total of seven trophies including three FA Cups.

After his first spell at Arsenal, he went to Portsmouth to join the Harry Redknapp show where he was a vital member of the team that went on to lift the FA Cup in 2007/08.

Campbell finally retired from the game after an Arsenal swansong and a season with Newcastle United as they returned to the Premier League following relegation, but not before signing for Notts County, in what was both a curious and intriguing decision to all watching.

Campbell spends most of his time now, concentrating on his charity 'Kids Go Live', which enables disadvantaged children to attend major sporting events such as Wimbledon and The Olympics.  He played 73 times for his country, scoring a sole goal against Sweden in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Finals.

Arthur Wharton

And last but not at all least, the man considered as the first black professional association football player in the world and the first to play in the Football League.  Although I am not old enough to remember Wharton, his début is the starting point for all black footballers.

Born in 1865, Wharton moved to England in 1882; his father was half-Grenadian and half-Scottish and his mother, and his mother was a member of Ghanaian royalty.  Originally when he came to the country, it was to study as a Methodist missionary but left to become a full-time athlete. He was following in the footsteps of his father, who was a Methodist minister.

Wharton was an all-rounder; in 1886, he set a world record in the 100metres while he also played cricket and cycled.  It's hard to get exact records of his statistics but it is said he played for Darlington, before joining Preston North End where he was part of their 'invincibles' side, although he wasn't playing for them when they won the double in 1889.

After his retirement from football, he became a haulage hand; before joining the Home Guard of WW1. Stories say that even in his later years he continued to play cricket and was still fast enough ‘to catch pigeons'.

Although he died in 1930, his grave didn't get a headstone until 1997 when the Football Unites, Racism Divides organisation ran a campaign to have his achievement recognised.

He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and there is currently a campaign to have statues of him erected in Darlington and Rotherham.  Wharton's is buried in Doncaster's Ellington Cemetery.

You can read part one of Natasha's article here.