The story of the world’s first international football match: at a cricket ground in Partick

Glasgow loves football, but there may be some who are unaware that this beautiful game, at least internationally, got off to a modest start on a quiet cricket ground in Partick.

The year marks the 150th anniversary of the first international football match between Scotland and England.

The game took place on Saturday 30th November 1872 at the West of Scotland cricket ground just off Dumbarton Road, although we bet it looked very different to any modern equivalent.

With an entrance fee of one shilling, more than 5,000 people turned out to watch the match, which was organized by the English FA to encourage the game north of the border.

Although the teams had played some five times before in and around the London area, this match is recognized by FIFA as the first international match due to the fact that, for the first time, both teams were chosen independently by their respective FA.

The Scottish side, wearing dark blue shirts and a hooded hood, featured a team made up entirely of players from Queen’s Park, while the English side (playing in white shirts and caps) had players from nine different sides in their eleven. initial, with the University of Oxford. lining up three players.

In terms of formation, Scotland lined up with two at the back, two in midfield and six up front, while England opted for a formation of one defender, one midfielder and eight forwards.

No substitutions were allowed during the match (it would be a while before they were allowed), although England goalkeeper Robert Barker did swap positions with an outfield player to try and give his team the victory, although it was Scotland who were more involved. close to doing it. thus, with a shot by Robert Leckie that was considered to hit the crossbar.

And although the Scottish side were seen as having an advantage given their players’ strong knowledge of each other’s play, the game ended in a draw, with reports stating that “neither side scored a goal”.

The game was also notable for being the first to witness an attempt by a player to make an overhead kick, namely William “Billy” Muir MacKinnon, who reported for Scotland that day as a 20-year-old.

kick over the head.
A hand-coloured engraving depicting the 1872 Scotland v England match, with William “Billy” Muir MacKinnon’s aerial kick attempt depicted at lower right.

MacKinnon, who was born in Gorbals and played for Queens Park and Scotland in the 1870s, is believed to have invented the technique and tried to pull off the bold move during the match.

In his book ‘First Elevens’, Andy Mitchell details how MacKinnon’s overhead kick was a real talking point of the match. He took the English by surprise. They, in fact, no one had ever seen anything like it.

There is a hand-colored illustration of the goal from the period, by artist William Ralston for the British illustrated weekly The Graphic. It was posted alongside a review of the match that labeled his move “the kick of the day” and detailed the applause MacKinnon received from the crowd following the effort, which was more of a clearance than a shot on goal.

The sacred grass as it is today.
The sacred grass as it is today.

In terms of the result, surprisingly, it would not be repeated between Scotland and England for another 98 years, until the teams drew 0-0 at Hampden on April 25, 1970.

It is also interesting to note that the game started with England captain Cuthbert Ottaway kicking the ball deep into the Scotland half, just like in rugby.

And perhaps most importantly, the match marked the birth of the modern game by the Scots, who, faced with the difficulty they had in trying to get past the English lines, began to pass the ball between themselves to try to leave their best players faced. fewer opponents.

Proof, if ever needed, that Glasgow is the true home of football.

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