Football Developing in Nineteenth-Century Wales
It was during the late nineteenth-century that football emerged in Wales, as a result of workers moving to the industrial north-east. It began to take hold in the 1870s, as small clubs were formed and competitions at local levels were held. Some of the more talented players were crossing the border to compete in the established English Football league.
There were a small amount of amature football teams in the south of Wales, however, it wasn't until the turn of the twentieth-century that semi-professional clubs were established in south Wales. Not long after, professional clubs were established and Welsh clubs entered into the Football Association Cup.
Foundations of the Football Association of Wales
The foundations of the Football Association of Wales began in Wrexam in 1876, where it was formed by a group of businessmen who wished to see a Welsh team compete against Scotland, as fixtures had been arranged between Scotland and England for the previous four years. The match between Wales and Scotland took place in March 1876 in Glasgow, where the Welsh team consisted of ten players. The Welsh lost by four goals to nil.
As football continued to be a mainly north Wales sport, it was only clubs such as Wrexham, which was established in 1873, Oswestry and Chirk, that were established in the first decade of the formation of the FAW. To improve the standard of Welsh football, to be able to compete at international level, the Welsh Cup competition was introduced in 1878, creating great tension between the north Wales clubs, Wrexham being the first to win the tournament. Cardiff City were the first south Wales club to win the cup in 1912.
The Welsh Football League was established in 1902, however, the clubs were soon moving to the more professional English League in search for a higher standard of football.
Battling with Rugby
Football has battled against many elements during its existence in Wales, such as financial difficulties, the divisions between north and south and the perception that football is strictly an English sport. But, the biggest battle of all has been against the most popular sport of rugby union. Despite the formation of the South Wales and Monmouthshire FA, the success of the game of rugby union overshadowed a possible growth in the game of football. Rugby union was the most popular game among the miners and most of the other south Wales workers, leaving little room for the growth of another national sport.
The Growth of the Popularity of Football with its Players
The growth of football owed a great deal to one of its greatest players, Billy Meredith, who was a Welsh hero between 1895-1920. He has been considered the first star of Welsh football. He came from Chirk, but became famous for playing for clubs in Manchester. Meredith won a record amount of 48 caps playing for Wales, and also received a great amount of club honours. He was known as one of the greats, along with Leigh Roose, Gren Morris, Horace Blew, Ted Hughes and Charlie Morris. Meredith was nicknamed the 'Welsh Wizard', as he was compared to the Welsh-born Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, who also shared the same nickname.