The First International Football Match


Brazil v Croatia at the World Cup, 2014.

From this in 1872...

A drawn representation of England v Scotland, 1872

The World Cup is currently taking place in Brazil, with the final to be contested next Sunday. Thirty two qualified nations will have been reduced to two. Together with the Olympics, the tournament, held every 4 years, is the world’s biggest sporting event. International football has come a long way since its first kick off.

The first official international football match took place between England and Scotland on 30th November 1872. This match was the culmination of a series of challenges that had been issued by the Football Association’s secretary, and English football player, Charles Alcock, in the Scotsman newspaper, challenging Scotland to a series of football matches.

Scotland’s football team agreed to the challenge, and on 5th March 1870, the first of a set of ‘friendly’ games took place in London at The Oval. This was followed by four further matches on 19 November 1870, 25 February 1871, 18 November 1871, and 24 February 1872.

Each game ended in a draw or a win for England, spurring Scotland to urge for a move in the location of future games from London to Scotland.

Alcock and his associates were unhappy that only one player in the Scottish team was actually from a Scottish club; Robert Smith from Queen’s Park (who had played in both the November 1870 and each of the 1871 games). The remainder of the Scotland team actually came from London.

After a newspaper campaign by Alcock, in 1872 the Football Association declared that “In order to further the interests of the Association in Scotland, it was decided that during the current season, a team should be sent to Glasgow to play a match v Scotland”.

This match, the first official international, took place in 1872 at the West of Scotland Cricket Club ground in Scotland. The Scottish team was entirely made up of the Queen’s Park team, whereas the English team was selected from players from eleven different clubs.

Delayed for twenty minutes due to fog, the match was played before a lively 4,000 spectators, who’d each paid a shilling to watch this historic football game. A game which resulted in a 0-0 draw.

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Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

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