One hundred and fifty years ago, Glasgow was the scene of the very first official international match in the history of association football. Every player who has pulled on a national team shirt, and every supporter who has watched their nation play, all follow in the footsteps of those select few who were witness to that historic day on 30 November 1872.
In the nineteenth century, the Scottish city of Glasgow, like so many other cities throughout the world, experienced major transformations due to industrialisation. From a town of just 70,000 inhabitants at the turn of the century, it had grown to become a major port and industrial centre with a population of over half a million by 1872. Thomas Sulman’s ‘Bird’s Eye View of Glasgow’, which featured in the 1864 Illustrated London News, gives a fascinating view of the city just prior to the time of the first international. Known as the second city of empire after London, it was famous for its cotton, shipbuilding, and heavy engineering industries visible on the the banks of the River Clyde.
With the growing population, the wealth disparity among Glaswegians also grew bigger and bigger, resulting in overpopulation in certain areas of the city that had long-term consequences. The Gorbals, an area on the south bank of the river Clyde, would turn into an area with one of the poorest living conditions in Europe, peaking in the 1930s. At this time you would also find the three biggest football stadiums in the world there, all capable of holding over 100,000 supporters. These included Ibrox, the home of Rangers, Parkhead, the home of Celtic; and Hampden Park, the home of Queen’s Park and the de facto national stadium.