Frank Soo was born in Buxton, Derbyshire in 1914, and brought up in Liverpool, to a Chinese father and an English mother. His father, Ah Kwong-Soo, was a Chinese sailor based on Merseyside who later married Beatrice Whittam, Frank’s mother, in Manchester.
Soo’s football career began at the age of 18 at Prescot Cables FC. He was renowned for his immaculate passing and freekicks; he was quickly signed by Stoke City. In his first match on 4 November 1933, he was picked to play inside-left against Middlesbrough, making him the first player of Chinese descent to play in the Football League.
In 1939, Soo’s name was put forward in numerous newspapers for selection in the England team, with the Daily Express stating that ‘Soo, of Stoke, is one of the finest halves in the game, and it would be no less than he was worth if they put him in.’ Due to the outbreak of World War II, Soo was never able to officially play for England. In semi-official matches, Soo played nine times for the England national football team between 1942 and 1945. When he was called up to the RAF, he captained their team and also appeared as a guest player for Everton, Newcastle United, Chelsea, Brentford, and Millwall to name but a few.
Soo had a successful club football career: after the war, he played for Leicester City, Luton Town and Chelmsford City. He later continued his career as a football manager, mainly in Scandinavia, and this also included a spell at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, as the coach of the Norwegian national football team. He played for many years alongside the well-known Sir Stanley Matthews at Stoke City and both Soo and Mattews shared a dedication to football and a strong work ethic. Both players believed in proper health and nutrition whereas other footballers of the time engaged in heavy drinking and smoking. Sir Stanley Matthews has become one of the most revered English footballers of all time: on the other hand, the name Frank Soo is not one you’re likely to know.
Frank Soo was the first non-white person to play for the England national football team and still is the only player of an Asian background to reach that level for England. His first England appearance, in 1942, came 36 years before fellow trailblazer Viv Anderson became England’s first black player. Soo, at 76 years old, passed away in Cheadle, England on 25th January 1991. His story and role in England’s football should be remembered and appreciated.