Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fitba Crazy: The National Game




The Edinburgh Academical Football Club is the oldest football club of any code in Scotland (rugby football) and was founded in 1857. As late as the 1860s, football was still played in Scotland with players allowed to handle the ball, whereas in England, only the goalkeeper was permitted to use their hands and then only in his own area.



Scotland's oldest soccer club was Queen's Park (formed 1867) and in the absence of official rules developed their own unique code. Initially they affiliated to the (English) Football Association then after helped form the Scottish FA in 1873. Queens Park played in the English FA Cup and reaching the final twice.



Scottish Association football was enthusiastically taken up by the working class particularly in the central belt of Scotland. By contrast English Association football had been the prerogative of public school boys.



The world’s first official international match under the new Football Association rules took place between Scotland and England in 1872. Bad weather caused the first fixture to be cancelled but a rescheduled game took place at the West of Scotland, Cricket Ground in Patrick, Glasgow. The game ended in a nothing each draw.



Hibernian FC was formed in 1875 by impoverished Irish émigrés living in Edinburgh and sporting the green and white to celebrate their Irish roots. Hearts formed two years later and played in red white and blue. The Edinburgh derby match is the oldest regularly played derby match in the world. Sectarianism was strong in the Scottish cities at that time and only decades later when sectarian affiliations faded did things change. The main exception was the intense rivalry between Rangers (1872 rowing enthusiasts) and Celtic (1887).



The Scottish Cup is the world’s oldest national cup competition and was first contested in 1873. The Scottish Football League was formed in 1890 and in the inaugural season of competition was between 10 teams: Abercorn (Paisley) , Cambuslang, Celtic, Cowlairs (Glasgow) , Dumbarton, Heart of Midlothian, Rangers, St. Mirren, Third Lanark and Vale of Leven (Dumbarton).



Scottish players soon developed and mastered a ‘passing and running’ play which became known as the “combination game”. Greater reliance was placed on fast wingers to bring the ball forward before passing to the striker. This technique was pioneered by Queen's Park FC and in order to distinguish colleagues from opponents distinctive self coloured strips were introduced. Players had to cover their knees by the rules and wore “knickerbockers” or "knickers". Socks were initially self-coloured but quickly design features such as contrasting rings ("cadet stripes") on the turnover began to appear. In early days players had to buy their own kit.



Towards the end of the 19th century illicit inducements were offered to Scottish players to join English clubs. Fergie Suter ( Partick Thistle) was the first to cross the border to join Darwen FC (Lancashire) for an undisclosed incentive in 1878. Rows over broken time payments, poaching, financial inducements or the offer of a job (with paid time off for training) became a serious issue and led in 1885 to a decision by the FA to recognise professionalism in England. Payments to players were not permitted in Scotland until 1893. One of the consequences of the introduction of professionalism in England was that the best players in Scotland moved south to play for wages.



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