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Frank Wong Soo - English-Chinese Character

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Years before Terry Venables made the groundbreaking signing of China's national team captain Fan Zhiyi and his compatriot Sun Jihai in 1998, Frank Wong Soo had already made his mark as the first player of Chinese extraction to become an England international. 
Frank was actually the first non-white player of any ethnic background to represent England long before the first "official" black player, Viv Anderson, was to gain his first England cap in 1979.
Born in Buxton, Derbyshire, England, in 1914, Soo was the son of an English mother and Chinese father. For many observers, he was one of the best inside forwards of the immediate pre-war era, certainly during his time at Stoke City, where he formed part of a legendary team that included players such as Sir Stanley Matthews and Neil Franklin. This famous trio played together in the England team that faced Scotland at Villa Park on 3rd February 1945.
He made his mark as a schoolboy playing alongside legends such as Joe Mercer and Stan Cullis in the Cheshire Schools team. Signing for Stoke in 1933, Soo went on to win nine caps representing England, but remains a "forgotten" international because The Football Association does not recognise appearances for the England team during the Second World War.
From Stoke Soo joined his former boss, Tom Mather, at Leicester City for a fee of £4,600. His abilities soon impressed local fans. Unfortunately, military duties cut short his availability and Soo eventually followed Mather out of the club to Luton Town for a fee of £3,000, where he finished his playing career.
Soo then went on to be an extremely successful coach, with the impressive accolade of having coached in five different countries during the 1950s and 1960s - an extremely rare achievement at that time.
He was coach of Italian team Padova for two seasons in the early 1950s, before moving to Scandinavia, where he stayed for three decades managing and coaching several Danish, Norwegian and Swedish teams including AIK Stockholm, and, most successfully, Djurgaardens IF with whom he won the Swedish Championship in 1955. Soo returned to England to manage Scunthorpe United at the end of the 1950s for one season.
Rather bizarrely, Soo's final coaching spell saw him managing the Israeli national team in the early 1960s! He died in Liverpool on 29th January 1991 and remains the only player of Oriental extraction to have represented England to this date.

July 2001, Michael Lee

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