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Scotland’s first black footballer in Hall of Fame

Watson is believed to be first to play at the top level. Picture: James Stewart

Watson is believed to be first to play at the top level. Picture: James Stewart

  • by GEORGE MAIR
 

THE man believed to be first black footballer to play at the top level of the game, former Scotland captain Andrew Watson, was inducted in to the nation’s footballing Hall of Fame today.

Watson was born in Guyana and lived in Govan, Glasgow. During his career, the “exceptional defender” played for Queen’s Park, Parkgrove and Corinthians as well as Scotland for whom he had an impeccable record of wins. He was inducted in to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame at a dinner at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow.

Watson’s award – only the second for a player from the Victorian era – was collected by Richard McBrearty, curator of the Scottish Football Museum which hosts the Hall of Fame.

Watson won three caps for Scotland in the 1880s, but his remarkable story only emerged a decade ago after pictures were discovered by researchers at the Scottish Football Museum in Glasgow. Until then, Englishman Arthur Wharton, a Preston North End star, was accepted as the first black player.

The Hall of Fame honours individuals who have made a significant contribution to Scottish Football. Football fans from all over the world nominated players whom they thought should be recognised, and the final five were then chosen by a panel.

Watson is not only believed to be the first black footballer, but was also the first ever black international player, playing in two victories over England and another against Wales.

In his first international appearance, in 1881, he captained Scotland to a 6-1 victory in London, which remains England’s heaviest home defeat. The same year he was part of the Scotland team that defeated Wales 5-1.

The following year, he helped inflict another 5-1 thrashing on England at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

Mr McBrearty said: “Andrew Watson’s story has only emerged in the last decade, but he was a very popular choice to be inducted in to the Hall of Fame. First and foremost, he was a world class player in his day. The fact he was a black footballer made him a pioneer in black sport in that early period.

“On his debut for Scotland in 1881 he was captain of team who defeated England 6-1 in London, which remains their heaviest defeat on home soil to this day. That alone is significant. He was also recognised as a sporting celebrity and had star billing, but as the 20th century progressed he was largely forgotten.”

Watson, the son of a Scottish merchant, Peter Miller Watson, spent his early years in Guyana, then a British colony in South America, but was educated in Britain.

He first appears in the records as a player for Maxwell FC in 1874 – some 11 years earlier than Wharton’s footballing debut for Darlington.

 

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