The qualifying rounds for the football World Cup finals in 2010, to be held in South Africa, kicked off last week. Iceland plays in a group with Holland, Macedonia FYR, Norway and Scotland. All these teams rank way above the Icelandic team, which sits rather pitiable, in position number 107 in the FIFA world rankings.
The first match saw Iceland visit Norway in Oslo and much to everyone’s surprise the game ended in a 2:2 draw. Equally surprising was the 1:0 win by Macedonia over Scotland. These results laid the groundwork for an exciting match when the Scots visited Iceland on the 10th of September. The Scottish really needed a win if they were to have any chance of making it to the finals, and the draw against Norway fired up the Icelandic squad, who seemed to believe that maybe, just maybe, they could beat the Scots.
The buildup to the game started 2 days earlier when the Scottish fans, dubbed the Tartan Army, arrived in Reykjavik wearing their traditional kilts and their not so traditional clown wigs. Why is it that football fans feel that it’s necessary to dress like children when they go see a game? Never mind the kilts, that’s somewhat cute and quirky… but the wigs, the Viking helmets and the face paint? It’s weird but mostly just stupid to see grown men parade around like that.
The Tartan Army is considered the best-behaved group of national football supporters around the world. Back in the seventies things weren’t quite like that. In 1977 in a bizarre act of defiance, frustration or bewilderment, the Scottish fans stormed Wembley stadium after a match with England and tore down the goalposts. A pretty concise statement to both teams. But since then the Tartan Army has cleaned up it’s act and has won awards from FIFA for having a “friendly nature” as opposed to beating up children, “donating to charity” as opposed to stealing from said children and most strangely: for “vocal support” as opposed to being silent football fans – the definition of an oxymoron.
The Tartan Army, true to their nature, was indeed not so silent on the streets of Reykjavík the two days leading up to the match. They paraded around in their kilts, drawing attention wherever they went – which most of the time was just the nearest pub. One member said in a drunken television interview that he liked to drink 20 beers a day, which made me wonder what kind of jobs these lads have at home – for 20 beers in a pub in Reykjavík equals most honest men’s pay.
On match day most of the Army’s men and women were well sauced. True to their reputation of being friendly and contrary to the Icelanders, the Scottish seem to have fun when they drink and do not see it as their immediate goal to beat up the next unfortunate soul to cross their path. So the Scots drank, shouted and sang all through the game while the Icelanders cursed at their team when nothing went their way. The shirtless Scots behind me had made up new lyrics to some of their old fighting songs – “we will deep fry all your puffins” was one line. All in all I wish the Tartan Army would visit more often.
And the match? We lost 1:2. But that was to be expected.