Scottish links to Belgian Football
History archives reveal some interesting stories which show the presence of Scots in the early stages of Belgian football.
During a leisure holiday, two affluent Scottish families, the Blairs and Fairlies, decided to potentially create “The Foot Ball Club Spa” near the Belgian region of Liege in 1863.
Both families, according to research, appear to originate from Ayrshire.
There was Sir Edward Hunter Blair, a gentleman, justice of the peace, lieutenant of the Royal Navy, born in 1818, having thirteen children with Helen Hunter. There was also the Fairlie clan of nine people; Colonel James Ogilvy Fairlie, born in 1815, his wife and their children. Roles such as Treasurer and Secretary were to potentially be passed onto both children of the families. The pursuit of trying to create club appears to have been due to the formation of the English FA, producing a strong desire, from both families, to form a football club in their country of holiday. Although this was not a formal creation of a football club, it does appear to be one of the first pieces of documentation of its kind, that shows a potential desire for football clubs to be formed in Belgium.
In addition, a former Scottish international, William Maxwell, was the first coach to manage the Belgium National team. He initially went to Leopold FC before enjoying two periods as coach of the Belgian national team, from 1910 to 1913 and 1920 to 1938. Maxwell would lead the Belgians to Olympic Gold at the 1920 Antwerp Games. Opponents, Czechoslovakia, were unhappy with the performance of the 65-year-old English referee, John Lewis. Their protests were dismissed, leading to an eventual disqualified from the tournament without receiving any medal.
Another Scot, Doug Livingstone, from Alexandria, West Dumbartonshire, would later manage the Belgian national team in 1953. Before this stint, Livingstone took charge of the Republic of Ireland from 1951 to 1953. He would guide The Red Devils to the 1954 FIFA World Cup and notably was in charge for the thrilling 4–4 draw with England in the group stages.
Indeed, former Scottish coach, John Dick, is better remembered in Czech football, he also enjoyed a successful spell in Belgium as manager of Antwerp side: K Beerschot VAC.