Andrew Watson

Learn about the trailblazing Scot who is considered to be the world's first Black international footballer

Andrew Watson muralThe Scottish Football Museum

A game changer

Andrew Watson was the first Black man to play in an international match and the first Black man to captain his country. The Scot was also an influential figure off the pitch in football's early years.

Sketches of the first international football match, 1872The Scottish Football Museum

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Watson is not as widely celebrated as he should be. The story of football’s opening chapters contain many mysteries. Clubs sprung up as the game took root in Britain in the late 19th century. Future giants laid foundations while others burned brightly and disappeared.

Glasgow select team, 1880The Scottish Football Museum

Lost are stories of many pioneers who helped build football and its popularity. Andrew Watson was a recurring name on football team sheets in the 1870s and 80s. It wasn’t until the discovery of team photographs over a century later that revealed his true relevance.

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Andrew Watson is today recognised as the world's first Black international footballer, the world's first Black international captain and the world's first Black club secretary.

Top Amer (Sou) Guyana (Br.) Various Incl TypesLIFE Photo Collection

Watson was born in British Guiana on May 24 1856, the son of a Scottish sugar planter & former slave owner and a Guyanese woman. He later moved to Britain, attending school & university and settling in Glasgow. In his father's homeland he fell in love with a new, growing game.

The Qualifying Cup Final Ball, 1898The Scottish Football Museum

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Starting out with Maxwell FC in 1874 Andrew then moved to Parkgrove, where he served as match secretary and vice president and is believed to be the first black football administrator. He would go on to take on similar roles at several clubs throughout his career.

1903 Match BallThe Scottish Football Museum

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He then moved to Queen’s Park Football Club, arguably Britain’s leading club of the era, where he became a star attraction as a player and was elevated to the prestigious role of honorary secretary. The famous Glasgow club were renowned for pioneering the Scottish short passing

England 1 Scotland 6 team photo, 1881The Scottish Football Museum

His form caught the eye of Scotland selectors and Watson made history when he won the first of three international caps in London in March 1881, captaining the team in a 6-1 triumph which still stands as England’s heaviest home defeat.

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A few days later he took the armband again, captaining the Scots in a 5-1 victory over the Welsh. 

Scotland national team photograph featuring Andrew Watson, 1882The Scottish Football Museum

A year later Watson won his third cap, playing in a 5-1 win over England in Glasgow in 1882. The Scots scored 16 in three wins, but this was his last appearance. A move to London for business reasons ended his international career with Scotland only selecting home-based players.

Billy's Boots, 1948The Scottish Football Museum

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In England he played for several clubs including Swifts (London), the legendary Corinthians, one of the giants of that era, and Bootle FC and was regarded as an influential player as English clubs sought to emulate Queen’s Park and Scotland’s scientific passing game.

Scotland national team photograph featuring Andrew Watson, 1882The Scottish Football Museum

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In the decades since Watson’s picture was first uncovered, historians have been able to establish his significance in both Scottish football history and the story of the world game. 

Andrew Watson graveThe Scottish Football Museum

Scottish fans also cherish him as a legend, with Watson entering the nation’s Football Hall of Fame 2012 and supporters raising funds to restore his gravestone in London.

Andrew Watson muralThe Scottish Football Museum

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In Glasgow, the city where he starred for Queen’s Park and in the colours of his national team, Watson is also remembered in two murals and celebrated as the star who illuminated the role of Black players in football history.

Scotland and Ireland EURO2008 bidThe Scottish Football Museum

Football today is a world removed from the game played by Watson well over a century ago. Organisations work with partners to make it accessible for all. But Watson will forever stand as one of its most important role models, lighting the way for future generations.

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