Frank Soo is in many ways the forgotten man of twentieth-century football. In his time he was a household name, his life chronicled by national newspapers in Britain and, on occasions, around the world.
Frank was born in Derbyshire, and late raised in Liverpool, to a Chinese father and an English mother. His football career began at the age of 18 at Prescot Cables FC. He was an inside forward and was renowned for his perfectly placed passing and freekicks.
He had a successful club football career, playing for many years alongside, and later captaining, Stanley Matthews for Stoke City. After the war, he played for Leicester City, Luton Town and Chelmsford City.
On 9th May 1942 against Wales at Ninian Park, Frank 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. He went on to play for England a further eight more times and captained the RAF team during the Second World War. He also appeared as a guest player for Everton, Newcastle United, Chelsea, Brentford, and Millwall to name but a few.
However, due to the ongoing war in Europe, all of Frank's games for England were never counted as caps, as these games were all unofficial matches.
His later career as a football manager, mainly in Scandinavia, included a spell at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, as the coach of the Norwegian national football team.
He was appointed manager of Djurgårdens IF in the 1954/55 season and led them to the Allsvenskan title, the highest football league in Sweden. Among the other clubs he managed were Padova in Italy, AIK in Sweden and Scunthorpe United in England, the latter of which he took to 15th in the league table after only one season in charge.
Frank passed away in Cheadle, England on 25th January 1991. He was aged 76 years.
There are many reasons or theories as to why Frank's name is not more well known. The Soo family believe a highly racist cartoon derailed his England career (though no evidence of this cartoon has been found), while others believe that managing and living in Scandinavia meant his name was not spoken as often in British households and eventually disappeared.
Whatever the reasons for Frank Soo’s disappearance from the narrative of football history, The Frank Soo Foundation will actively promote and advance this significant figure's legacy.
The man, who was nicknamed "The Smiler", was a hugely admired and skillful footballer, charming and charismatic, and a role model for any aspiring young player, now as much as he was during his lifetime.
On 9th May 2020, Google in partnership with The Frank Soo Foundation released the Frank Soo Google Doodle. You can see it here.
Unfortunately, there are very few photos or videos of Frank. If you own any or are aware of photos or videos of Frank, please email Chi: email@example.com.
THE FRANK SOO FOUNDATION X GOOGLE ARTS & CULTURE
The Frank Soo Foundation has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to create an exhibit on Frank's Story. Scroll to go through his story or click below to visit the platform.