Colin McPherson recalls his horror at taking a friend along to a Scotland game
The end of the Cold War; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the collapse of the Soviet Empire. What could all these great and momentous events have to do with my most humiliating night watching Scotland attempting to play football? They were the reasons for my embarrassment.
When the Brandenburg Gate was finally flung open in the autumn of 1989, the masses took off in in search of the wonders of the western world: the Sistine Chapel, the Parthenon, the Louvre. But not my mate Jens. Oh no, his one and only wish was to travel to Scotland and pay homage to the international football team he had adopted as his own.
Come the spring of 1990 MacJens’ sole ambition was to get to Aberdeen for Pittodrie’s first international since the invention of the combustion engine to watch his beloved Scots rewrite the record books against a compliant Egyptian side. When the ticket office announced to me that the game was a complete sell out with the exception of a handful of the most expensive seats in the house I could sense trouble.
However, mindful of MacJens’ years of torment dreaming of a spectacle such as this, I filled my credit card to a limit hitherto unseen and purchased four tickets. Total cost – near bankruptcy.
The first indication I had of the calamity to follow was when I saw Bryan Gunn emerge from the tunnel with the ’keeper’s jersey on. I buried my head in my hands and kept them there until I got a further indication of impending disaster; Egypt’s second goal after fifteen minutes. I looked at MacJens, beside himself with rage at such, such, well, inefficient football and I like Scotland, could offer no defence.
After an incoherent first half, Scotland threw on Super Ally in the hope that he might rectify the situation, and behold the patron saint of poachers obliged with a low shot into the net. Pittodrie erupted. MacJens hugged me and stood on his seat. Within a few short illusory minutes it was all over. The Egyptians broke up field and Hani Ramzy effortlessly stroked the ball past Gunn, who had spent most of the evening looking like one of those newly-redundant statues of Lenin in East Berlin. I sensed my moment and as the ball slumped gently into the empty net I jumped up and shouted: ‘Yes. Ya beauty!” I had paid all that money and I was bloody well going to celebrate. MacJens looked at me with a disbelieving stare, sensing treachery. It had been a thoroughly soul- destroying night for the newest member of the Tartan Army and my bewildering display of disloyalty left him speechless.
Three days later and the part two of the pre-World Cup warm up: Poland at Hampden. Scotland just had to make amends and prove that all those things we cherish in the West – political freedom, free speech, rampant commercialism – were worth the upheaval witnessed from Rostock to Rostov. Sure enough, Gary Gillespie scored one of the finest goals I have ever seen.
But Scotland equalised late on and my blushes were at least partially spared.
I have lost touch with MacJens, whose command of our language reminded me of a Roy Aitken pass – wild and inaccurate. But if you are reading this Jens, accept my humble apologies on behalf of my fellow countrymen for that abject display. As you are no doubt still a loyal member of the Tartan Army you would do well to remember that north African nightmare as you travel to St Etienne to watch Scotland take on mighty Morocco.
From WSC 132 February 1998. What was happening this month