This essay examines William Ralston’s illustration of the first official international football match between Scotland and England in November 1872. A close analysis of the image reveals not only how Ralston depicted the players and the style of football they played, but also how broader issues of class, national identity, spectatorship and social satire are bound together in this significant sporting image. The essay also examines Ralston’s work in relation to other representations of football produced for the illustrated press during the game’s early years. It considers to what extent the form and composition of the illustration was influenced by the style of football on display and how subsequent illustrators interpreted the game as it developed into a popular spectator sport by the 1890s. This essay demonstrates how art offers sport history a rich source of material that can expand our understanding of sporting culture.