Victorian Football

Oxford University team

The first German association football club was Dresden FC, formed in 1874 by Englishmen working in the city. Sometimes referred to as Dresden English FC, the club had around 70 members who would meet at the Güntzwiesen park to train and play matches.

Contemporary reports described young men playing in coloured kits comprising woollen or silk jerseys, knickerbockers, stockings, and ‘very comfortable shoes or boots’. The club is associated with the present day Dresdner SC, which was formed in 1898 by German members of the Dresden English club.

Football’s profile was briefly raised when the Oxford University team (pictured above) toured Germany in 1875. However, it would be more than 10 years before the game really caught on. Matches were played in Berlin and Hamburg between British expats, but football remained a curiosity to the locals, and no real football pitches existed.

Germany’s oldest surviving football club is BFC Germania 1888, which was formed in that year by three Berlin brothers and their schoolmates. The club played on the Tempelhofer field, which would later become the site of Tempelhof Airport. (Since the airport closed in 2008, Tempelhof has once more become a venue at which football is played.)

Germania was a founding member of the country’s first football league, the BDF (Association of German Footballers), which ran from 1890 until 1892. Germania won the league in its first season, thus becoming Germany’s first football champions.

Another of the oldest German football clubs is SV Hamburg. Formed in 1887, it began playing football in 1891, due to the influence of several British members. TSV 1814 Friedland was, as its name accurately reflects, formed in 1814. However, the gymnastics and sports club didn’t start playing football until the 1950s. TSV 1860 Munich was, rather confusingly, formed in 1848, but didn’t play football until 1899. The DFB (German Football Association) was founded in 1900. Fussball-Club Bayern München, or FC Bayern Munich, also formed in 1900.


Which was the first French football club? A solid claim is held by Le Havre, founded by British expatriates as Le Havre Athletique in 1872. The club originally played a form of football that was closer to rugby, but by the mid-1890s it had adopted the association game. In 1899, the club became French champions by default after receiving byes in both the semi-final and the final. In the following year, Le Havre defeated famous Parisien champions Club Francais in the final to earn the championship by right.

However, another side, FC Mulhouse, also hold a claim to being the first French football club. Although not founded until 1893 – by a pair of British students, Mulhouse didn’t flirt with rugby, and instead played association football from the beginning. However, Mulhouse’s claim is somewhat muddied by the fact that it is based in the Alsace-Lorraine region, which was in Germany, not France, at the time the club was formed.

The club’s original name was the more Germanic Fussball Club Mülhaussen. It became French after the First World War, reverted back to Germany during the Second World War, and is now back in the French league system. Does Le Havre or Mulhouse have the strongest claim to be France’s first football club? Je ne sais pas.


This is an edited extract from The Victorian Football Miscellany, available now from all good book shops.

The Victorian Football Miscellany

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