Monday, 12 March 2012

Racism and Football.

Andrew Watson

It's amazing the things you discover.  Racism in British football is often commented on.  But it wasn't always a problem in Scottish football.  The man above, Andrew Watson (1857– 1902) was the first black footballer in the world to play as an internationalist. He won 3 Scotland  (Yaay!  Inclusive Scotia rools!) caps between 1881 & 1882. He played as a full back.

Born in what was then British Guyana (they've dropped the British bit since becoming independent), he was the son of a wealthy Scottish sugar planter and a British Guyanese woman. He went to King's College School, Wimbledon, where he excelled at sports and went on to study natural philosophy (physics), mathematics and engineering at the University of Glasgow.

In 1876 he signed for Glasgow side Parkgrove F.C., also serving as match secretary, (which made him the first black administrator in football history). In 1880, he played in a All Glasgow team against Sheffield - the Weegies won 1–0! After marrying in Glasgow, he soon signed for Queen's Park F.C. – then Britain's biggest football team (oh, how the mighty Spiders have fallen!) and later became their secretary. He led them to several Scottish Cup wins, becoming the first black player to win a major competition.  In 1882, he was the first black player to play in the English Cup when he turned out for Swifts F.C.  In 1884 he was the first "foreign" player to be invited to join the most exclusive football team of the day (only 50 members) - Corinthians. During his time with them, he was part of the team that beat Blackburn Rovers 8 - 1 ( then the English Cup holders).

His skin colour did not matter to his contemporaries, and there is no record of institutional racism from the  Scottish Football Association. One match report was more interested in his brown boots (black boots were usual then).  Minutes record that, before one match where he was injured and couldn't play, an SFA vice-president said if Watson had been fit he would have happily drugged another Scottish international to give Watson his place. Watson won 3 caps for Scotland. the 1st Scotland v. England 12 March 1881, where he was Captain and we won 6 – 1(!!!).  A few days later Scotland played Wales and won 5 – 1. Watson's last cap was against England on 11 March 1882. This was another 5 – 1 victory for Scotland. In November 1877 he married Jessie Nimmo Armour - their son, Rupert, was born the nextyear and a daughter, Agnes Maude, in 1880. Watson later emigrated to Australia and died in Sydney in 1902.

it's heartening to think that Scottish football once upon a time showed higher ideals that the neds and money culture of the Old Firm.  Maybe it can again.


  1. I wonder why there is racism in football.

  2. Heaven knows! A nasty part of the human condition I fear.