We have already seen an example, the combined Rio/ Sao Paulo match with Exeter City being credited as Brazil's first international.
A further example can be found in the 'Canada' v 'USA' matches that occurred in n 1885 and 1886, which would have made them the first international fixtures to feature sides from outside the British Isles, whereas they were actually representative matches between Canada's Western Football Association and the American Football Association . In reality the USA did not play a full international until 1916 and Canada until 1924
A major culprit in the backwards extension of international football history however is the International Olympic Committee.
The BBC erroneously states that 'Men's football was introduced as a demonstration sport at the 1896 Olympics'. David Goldblatt's The Ball Is Round : A Global History of Football states that teams from Izmir, Athens and Denmark competed in an unofficial tournament at the time the games were taking place.This is undoubtedly an error caused by confusing the 1896 Olympics and the 1906 Intercalated Games. Olympic historians Mallon and Widlund (1998) state: No such 1896 source supports this and we think this is an error which has been perpetuated in multiple texts. No such match occurred.
A game at Vélodrome de Vincennes in 1900
To return to my point about matches being retrospectively elevated in importance let us move on to the Olympic games of 1900:
The records tell us that Great Britain, France and Belgium won gold, silver and bronze respectively. This suggests that an international competition took place. In reality, two demonstration matches were held watched by a combined audience of 2000. The three teams involved were a modest English club side (Upton Park F.C.- no connection with West Ham United), a scratch French team representing Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques and a side representing Université libre de Bruxelles.
No medals were awarded. Despite this, the International Olympic Committee currently credits Great Britain, France and Belgium with gold, silver and bronze medals respectively as part of its attempt to reconcile early Olympic Games with the modern award scheme. As the IFFHS website states: The two football matches played in Paris on September 20 and 23, 1900, were merely for demonstration and were presented so as to hide the embarrassment of an Olympic football tournament which never materialised. Therefore, they can only be considered to be friendlies.
Guess who? Yes, Galt FC.Again, in In 1904 only three club teams competed. Galt Football Club (Canada) made short work of school teams Christian Brothers College and Rose Parish FC (both of USA). The two US clubs then played each other 3 times (one of these matches doubling up as their Christian League fixture!) before producing a result. No medals were awarded at the time, but the IOC subsequently awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals and upgrade the status of the contests to an official event. Interestingly, the credibility of this series of games is further reduced by the fact that they were not even played over 90 minutes, but were only 60 minutes!
So, it was in the London Olympics of 1908 that an official football tournament between national representative selections was contested for the first time, by which time Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bohemia, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay had already played their inaugural international fixtures.
Denmark made their debut at the 1908 Olympic tournament.