Andrew Watson was the perhaps, world’s first black international football player, capped three times for Scotland between 1881 and 1882 and considered as one of the top ten most important players of the 19th century.Andrew Watson (born May 1857, Demerara, British Guiana; died in Sydney, Australia, date unknown) was the world’s first black international football player, capped three times for Scotland between 1881 and 1882 and considered as one of the top ten most important players of the 19th century.
He was the son of a wealthy Scottish sugar planter Peter Miller and a local girl Rose Watson. At the age of 14, he was schooled at the exclusive King’s College London, where school records show he excelled at sports including football. He later studied philosophy, mathematics and engineering at University of Glasgow when he was 19, where his natural love of football blossomed.
After first playing for Maxwell F.C., in 1876 he signed for local side Parkgrove F.C. where he was additionally their match secretary, making Watson football’s first black administrator. After marrying in Glasgow, he soon signed for Queen’s Park F.C. – then Britain’s biggest football team – and later became their secretary. He led the team to several Scottish Cup wins, thus becoming the first black player to win a major competition.
Black Scottish Footballer
Soon Watson won three international caps for Scotland including captaining them to a 6-1 victory against England on March 12, 1881, making him the first black international player and captain.
In 1882, he was the first black player to play in the FA Cup when he turned out for London Swifts F.C.. In 1884 he was the first foreign player to be invited to join the most exclusive of football teams, a team that only allowed only 50 members of high elite to join – Corinthians F.C. – created to challenge the supremacy of Queen’s Park and the Scottish national side.
It had been maintained that the first black footballer was Arthur Wharton, until it was only recently noted that Watson pre-dates him by 11 years. One reasons is that when historians consider black footballers, they tend to concentrate on professionals and not amateurs such as Watson. Another is that there are no known written records or match reports that mention the colour of Watson’s skin. One match report is more interested in that Watson played in unusual brown boots rather than the customary black boots of that time.
The colour of his skin was of no significance to his peers and there is no historical record of racism on the part of the Scottish Football Association. As written in the minutes, before one match where Watson was injured and unable to play, an SFA vice-president said if Watson had been fit he would have happily drugged a fellow Scottish international to give Watson his place.
Watson’s entry in the Scottish Football Association Annual of 1880-81 reads as follows:
“Watson, Andrew: 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.”
There is almost no record of his later life; however, it is known that Watson later emigrated to Australia, as he died in Sydney and is buried there.