Celebrating 145 years of Deaf football in Glasgow

gdafc team

Glasgow Deaf Athletic Football Club, the oldest surviving deaf football club in the world and the only one left in Scotland, celebrated 145 years in existence with a football tournament at Ibrox Park, the home of Glasgow Rangers, at the end of May.

Teams from Belfast, WBA, Leeds, Barnet and Lanarkshire travelled to Glasgow to take part in the celebrations.

The team, which is older than Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle and the Scottish Football Association, was founded by a group of men including William Agnew and Alexander McGregor in 1871. They were originally called Glasgow Deaf and Dumb Football Club.

Similar clubs and groups were created at deaf schools and societies all across the UK, inspired by the Glasgow side.

In 1899, Glasgow played Edinburgh Swifts for the first Scottish Deaf Cup. It was played in front of 2000 fans in Falkirk and Edinburgh won 4-0.

gdafc 145th anniversary cake

Some of the club’s greatest players helped steer the Great Britain team to football gold in the deaf Olympics in 1928 and 1935, and down the decades generations of footballers have been part of an incredible success story.

The Daily Record spoke to the club’s elder statesman, retired engraver Sandy Brooks, 81.

He joined as a right winger, aged 19, and became club secretary, a post he held for 30 years before becoming honorary president.

He said: “I first went along to the club when I was 19 and it’s been part of my life ever since. I loved it. I was so happy working with the club. There was a lot involved in setting up matches, a lot of organising and a lot of letter-writing. We’ve played European games and travelled to play in places such as Taiwan. It’s always been a fantastic club to be part of. There used to be eight clubs in Scotland and we are the only ones left. I am proud of how the club has lasted so long. It’s always been like my baby.”

jack spiers sandy brooks

General secretary of the club is Jack Speirs, 22. He told the Record to: “The club are very important for the deaf community as a real place of social interaction.”

Jack’s dad Alan and uncle Craig have also played for and run the club.

He added: “I have grown up with the club. My dad and uncle played so it has always been in my life. My dad met my mum when he came up from Kilmarnock for a game and it’s always been very important for all of us. I started playing when I was 15, then I joined the committee when I was 19 and became secretary when I was 20. It’s a lot to manage the finances and all the different sides of the club – a big responsibility. The football means we can come together, get encouragement and get involved in sport. It’s quite a big responsibility trying to run and organise different events and it’s a massive history and legacy that has been passed on.”

Jack added: “The SFA are trying to make things more even by using flags as obviously a whistle doesn’t work for us. We have a captain who can interpret and speak to the referee
and to players if anyone needs to calm down a bit. But a few months ago we had a problem as a referee wouldn’t use the flag, which made it more stressful for us. We lost the game. It was quite awful that he wouldn’t use the flag. That sometimes happens and we have to deal with it.”

It’s a constant challenge to raise money to add to the backing they have had from the Big Lottery Fund.

Jack said: “We are always looking for funding and would love to hear from anyone who can help with that. I’d also like to see us get more games.”