Sunday, August 18, 2013

Andrew Watson: Scotland's first black international footballer

Twitter recently led me to a fantastic post by Andy Mitchell on his Scottish Sports History blog.

Before the England v Scotland he sought out the modest grave of Andrew Watson, a footballer whose significance in the game has often been overlooked:

"I placed a Scottish saltire flag and a few flowers on the grave to commemorate his place in Scottish football history. But I have a strong feeling that Andrew Watson deserves more, a prominent and permanent memorial that truly recognises his place in sporting history as the first black international footballer, the first black administrator (he was secretary of Queen's Park) and possibly the first black professional player (at Bootle)."

I couldn't agree more.

Watson's progress in the game - and the acceptance of that progress - still seems hugely relevant today, even in what we like to consider our more enlightened age.

Andrew Watson also captained Scotland and, in his three games for his country, we beat England twice (6-1 away, 5-1 at home) and Wales once (5-1).

To his list of "firsts" we could possibly add:

  • First black captain of an International team (v England 1881)
  • First black player to win a major competition (Scottish Cup 1881)
  • First black player to play in the English FA Cup (London Swifts 1882)

The SFA annual of 1880-81 described Watson as:

"One of the very best backs we have; since joining Queen's Park has made rapid strides to the front as a player; has great speed and tackles splendidly; powerful and sure kick; well worthy of a place in any representative team." (Football Unites, Racism Divides)

A remarkable story. A story that, as Andy Mitchell points out, deserves more recognition than a neglected grave in a Richmond cemetery.