Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Tartan Army

One of my favourite newspaper headlines comes from those heady days back in 1986 when Scotland was still a footballing (soccer to some of you!) force to be reckoned with; it was the year that the World Cup was in Mexico. This was the infamous tournament when the hand of God played a part in England’s exit. Scotland too made an early exit after finishing bottom of their group. They did give West Germany a fright when wee Gordon Strachan opened the scoring after 18 minutes. It caused wild celebrations amongst the Tartan Army (Scotland's travelling football supporters for those of you from America) in Queretaro and wee Gordie got pretty carried away as well. He raced towards the crowd in the stands and he only had advertising hoarding to clear to stand triumphant in front of the T.A. Unfortunately at 5 feet 5 inches it was a hoarding too high and Strachan stopped short of jumping and stood and lifted his leg as though he was going to delicately hop over. It’s one of the enduring images of the tournament - West Germany won 2-1.

There were vast numbers of the Tartan Army who needed to get to Mexico and Continental Airlines had a daily service to Houston from London and then numerous flights from there all over Mexico. It became the airline of choice for the Tartan Army. The kilted hoard flew out over a number of days filling the terminal building with their flags and singing of the Scotland World Cup song – Big Trip To Mexico. Once onboard the DC10 it was the cabin staff that were responsible for trying to keep order. They had never seen anything like it. To be fair the vast majority of the fans were wonderful, and there were no real incidents of bad behaviour, with one exception.

Amongst the supporters was another diminutive Scot who was obviously out to have a good time. He’d been drinking before he got on and then once airborne he carried on. Eventually he grew tired of sitting in his seat and climbed up into one of the overhead lockers where he took off his false legs and refused to come down. This incident resulted in one of The Sun’s greatest headlines – ‘Legless at 30,000ft’.

Incidentally Continental, like the other airlines, flew home many less fans than they took out to Mexico. At last count there were thought to have been as many as two hundred members of the Tartan Army still languishing in Mexico. Maybe there will be a lost tribe of dark skinned, ginger haired youngsters discovered deep in the Mexican jungle.

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