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Scotland 1872

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.

 

Scotland played a 'passing and running' game, and in 1872, the English had never seen anything like it. Ben Lyttleton looks at the culture behind the style of football that we now all take for granted.
 
There was a distinct clash of styles when Scotland drew 0-0 with England in the world's first football international in 1872. England lined up playing a 1-1-8 formation, in which whoever had the ball would dribble at the opponents and kick it up field before he was tackled. One of the seven forwards, following behind, would then chase the ball.
 
Scotland played with a 2-2-6 system, with three banks of forwards divided into pairs. Each pair of players - in defence, midfield and attack - knew who their partner was and their job was to pass to them when possible. This revolutionary tactic of 'passing and running' was known as the combination game, and the English had never seen anything like it.
 
Both styles reflected each team's different culture. The England side's individualistic nature was summed up by their kit: they wore white shirts (with the three lions), but different-coloured knickerbockers and socks, depending on what public school they attended.
 
Scotland, whose team was made up of Queen's Park players, all wore blue shirts, white knickerbockers and blue-and-white hooped socks.
 
Ged O'Brien, a football historian and curator at Hampden Park's Scottish Football Museum, explained why the styles were so different: "It was down to class," he said. "Scotland was a more communitarian and egalitarian place than England.
 
"The rules of football in England were decided in the public schools where individualism was an important factor. In Scotland, it was a societal thing. There was no class bias to football and everyone grew up playing the game in the streets. Queen's Park were made up of 13 northern lads from between Aberdeen and Inverness who came to Glasgow to get white-collar work in banks and commerce. They formalised the team in July 1867, a time when Clydeside was producing one quarter of the world's ships and railways.
 
"In England, for 130 years football was a perceived as a working-class pursuit - but that is ironic when you consider that they played with the attitudes and rules of upper classes."
 
After the game, English players returned home and told everyone about Scotland's combination game. Soon hundreds of Scots - known as 'Scotch Professors' - were playing in England. Preston North End fielded eight Scots in one team while Liverpool were founded in 1892 with eleven Scots after Everton had vacated Anfield following a row over rent.
 
The goalless score of that 1872 fixture has become irrelevant. More important is that the combination game that Scotland used was copied first in England and then all over the world. Scots have been credited with introducing that style of football to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Sweden.

By Ben Lyttleton, September 2003

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