This is the first instalment in a three part piece looking at Scottish football fandom during the Women’s World Cup. In part one I speak to some stalwarts of the Tartan Army before the men’s side take on Cyprus In Glasgow. I get their opinions on what they’ve seen of the Women’s World Cup so far and how they think we can grow the game and get more people following the women’s game.
It’s 11am on Saturday morning and Scotland are due to take on Cyprus in the first game of the latest new era for our national side under the guidance of former Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke , I’ve just left my flat a mere twenty minute walk from Hampden to meet some of my fellow members of the Barry Bannan Tartan Army. A collective of Scotland fans brought together through work, uni and school connections and all – after some heavy debate – resolved to showing our undying love to Sheffield Wednesday’s Prince of Passing. We’re all older than when this all started – obviously that’s just how the inevitability of time works – and so what would have in the past seen a full turn out for doors opening at The Clockwork just beside our national stadium our numbers have today dwindled to just three with the others joining us over the course of the afternoon.
I knew we were getting older when the mention of a pint before 12 o’clock was greeted with a collective wince at the thought of the following day’s hangover and the subsequent rollover affect come Monday morning. After a meal of Cheeseburger and Chips for breakfast we settled down in front of one of the many televisions dotted around the walls to enjoy the afternoon’s entertainment. As well as the Women’s World Cup there were also Euro 2020 qualifiers taking place and so when the bar manager approached asking what we would like on I was quick to jump at my friend’s indecision and request that the afternoon’s game between Germany and China should be the one that would ease us into another tartan themed haze of Tennent’s and for reasons only know to Scotty, shots.
My request was not met with universal approval at the table, but my mates are a good bunch and after the initial wave of, “aw that’s not what I wanted” passed they settled in for what I hoped would be an entertaining encounter. In retrospect it probably wasn’t the finest example of women’s football to act as an introduction. China were guilty of missing a host of chances but the match was illuminated by a wonderful half volley from the edge of the area by 19-year-old Giula Gwinn to secure a 1-0 victory for Die Nationalelf.
Once the game was done, and I’d got my round in I asked Scotty and Chris what they though of the game, “The quality wasn’t what I was expecting, the pace wasn’t on a par with the men’s game and China had a few chances, I compare their finishing to Rangers playing Alloa with Kevin Kyle up front.” At this point I admonished Scotty for the horrendous comparison but he continued, “I thought the quality wasn’t great but neither was the Champions League Final and this at least felt a step up. At this point Chris joined in “I kind of agree, it was a bit slow paced but quality wise and in terms of technique it was on par with the mens game.”
By this point a third Kris (I know this is getting confusing) joined us, like me he had gone to the recent friendly against Jamaica where a record crowd of 18,555 gave Scotland the perfect send off. Unlike me though, he had went with his young twin daughters so I was interested to hear if they had enjoyed it as much as I had, “They really did and I think it’s good for girls growing up to go watch women’s football with my kids the same way our dads did with us. It was a great game, lots of goals and the girls got into it more than I thought they would which was good to see.”
This was all sounding incredibly positive so it was at this point I had to ask the killer question, why was I the only member going to France to see our girls take on the world? What needs to happen for the lads to show that same commitment to the sesh that saw them setting their alarms for an early start on a Saturday morning?
“Passion.”, said Scotty starting things off, “I’ve been a Tartan Army member for over 16 years and I’ll support anything Scottish, men’s football, women’s football, Andy Murray in the tennis, anything. To get me to a women’s game wouldn’t be too hard but we need that moment or hero. That James McFadden scoring that goal against France and from there build momentum with a need for mainstream media to lead that charge. For Chris it came down to one word, “Success, I think is a big thing, it will solidify it and would get me more interested as being the thing you want to follow.”
“I don’t want to have to force my daughters into joining the Tartan Army, I mean I will!” says Kris, “but quadrupling the attendance at Hampden was massive, they just need to keep putting it out there, making it accessible and making it visible. They will get the fans. As Scott says at the end of the day you’re in the Tartan Army and you support Scotland irrespective of who it is.”
I thanked the boys for taking part in the impromptu interrogation and we drank the afternoon away as the rest of our group trickled through over the course of the day.
Later that night Scotland won 2-1 against the Cypriots and the following day in Nice our women’s side lost 2-1 to the Auld Enemy. The hangover’s had set in and so viewings were done independently at home but the WhatsApp was buzzing with opinion. A few days later the men’s side lost 3-0 to Belgium and now I find myself sitting in Edinburgh Airport giving this one last proof read before starting my own World Cup journey.
The Tartan Army are a captive audience, they can be mobilised, and some of them have been, so in the next instalment of this story I’ll be in Rennes as Scotland take on former World Champions Japan in their second ever World Cup game.