The birth of international football
Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay all made their international debuts in the first decade of the 20th century. Brazil, Italy, Paraguay and USA followed suit in the 1910s, while Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Soviet Union, Spain and Yugoslavia did in the ensuing ten years.
Yet international football was almost 30 years old by the time the first of those aforementioned teams – Argentina and Uruguay – played their first match, against one another, in 1901. It began exactly 140 years ago to this Thursday, when Scotland hosted England.
The British rivals had already competed in unofficial games, to which only minor attention was given due to the fact the Scottish team was comprised exclusively – or almost exclusively – of Scots living south of the border. However, their first official clash drew an impressive crowd of 4,000 to Hamilton Crescent in Partick.
The Scots’ team was made up entirely of players from Queen’s Park, who played in the English FA Cup final twice in the 1880s and remain their country’s oldest football club, while the 11 Englishmen came from nine different outfits including Cambridge University, Crystal Palace, Notts County and Oxford University.
Kick-off was delayed 20 minutes due to fog, but when that lifted the spectators saw the Scotland and England players in their now-familiar dark blue and white shirts respectively; the visitors wore caps too.
The Scots dominated the first half, with Robert Leckie’s dribbling an incessant source of torment to their opponents, but the English held their own after the break. Ultimately, it finished goalless.
It was not, nevertheless, the prelude to a goal-shy fixture. It was the start not only of international football, but of what remains one of its fiercest rivalries.
First official internationals
1872 – England, Scotland
1901 – Argentina, Uruguay
1902 – Austria, Hungary
1904 – Belgium, France
1905 – Netherlands
1908 – Denmark, Germany, Sweden
1910 – Italy
1914 – Brazil
1916 – USA
1917 – Japan
1919 – Paraguay
1920 – Czechoslovakia, Spain, Yugoslavia
1921 – Poland, Portugal
1922 – Romania
1923 – Mexico
1924 – Bulgaria, Soviet Union
1927 – Peru
1938 – Colombia
1948 – Korea Republic
1949 – Nigeria
1957 – Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia
1960 – Cameroon
* Includes teams to have made over three appearances in the FIFA World Cup™