Footballers are often accused of play-acting on the pitch.
Now it has been revealed Scotland’s first international women’s football team was made up of actresses and dancers plucked out of Edinburgh theatres – and who wore heels on the pitch.
Their initial fixture, which saw Scotland take on England, was played at Hibernian’s original home ground on Easter Road in Edinburgh in 1881.
It came just nine years after Scotland drew 0-0 with England in Glasgow in the first ever men’s international football match.
A depiction of women playing in the 1860s
The little-known women’s game was attended by more than 1,000 fans and ended in a 3-0 victory for the home side.
The result was all the more remarkable because now it’s been revealed the Scots team – who wore blue jerseys, white knickerbockers, red stockings, a red belt and even high heeled boots – was made up of actors and dancers assembled by theatrical agents.
The historic unofficial international was revealed in a one-hour documentary Dougray Scott: Bringing Football Home, shown on BBC Scotland last night.
Professor Fiona Skillen, from Glasgow Caledonian University, said: ‘The first unofficial international match was held in May 1881 at Hibernian Park.
‘We think the players were drawn from the local theatres so they were actresses and dancers and they were brought together by theatrical agents to put on this spectacular. This was very much seen as an entertainment rather than a sporting activity.’
The historian said a second match between the nations, played a week later in Glasgow, ended with crowd violence.
Threats were even made against the players as they were seen to be challenging social norms and they had to be rescued from the pitch in a horse-drawn cart.
Professor Skillen said: ‘A riot breaks out in Glasgow. They saw it as immoral that these women were on the pitch, that they were showing their ankles and going against society.
‘They try to attack the women and they tear up the stakes at the side of the pitch and they’re chasing them. Eventually they have to bring a horse-drawn cart onto the pitch to load the women into to help them get away safely.’
She added: ‘A women’s place was seen as being in the home, it wasn’t supposed to be about pursuing their own passions.’
However, women’s football later increased during the First World War when there was a huge rise in females in the workforce.
Their game, though, was suppressed again after the war ended when women were expected to return to ‘wifely duties’.
Professor Skillen tells Hollywood actor and football fan Scott: ‘We don’t have a formal ban until 1948 but have an informal ban and there are notes in the records of the SFA where they are discouraging their members from giving facilities to women’s games.
‘We are quite a misogynistic country in that period. There was an element of “football is for men and we must protect that space”.
‘Ultimately the SFA do back down and do recognise women’s football but not until 1974.’