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> Diary 1998-99
Everyone's got to start somewhere, and
for Rich and I that was France '98. Although both
of us had been to a couple of games before, growing up on
the South Coast of England meant that information about
the national team was very thin on the ground (as any Daily
Record/Sunday Mail reader will testify to). My university
course finished in May 1998, and I had promised myself a
treat at the end: a trip to the World Cup Finals.
It soon became apparent that this was just a pipe dream,
as tickets were like gold dust.
A brief ray of hope came with success
in the travel club draw, but it was only a single ticket
to the Morocco game. However, as the Finals drew closer
an amazing thing happened - I only went and got through
on the phone line! No chance of Brazil tickets, but
after a 90-minute call to Paris, and a with World Cup Wallchart
and a map of France next to me I was able to buy up my maximum
16 tickets to ensure a feast of football.
Rich and I saw 8 matches in 7 different
cities, and covered over 3,000 miles on French trains over
two weeks, and got very drunk at regular intervals.
For my part, I learned how difficult life as a vegetarian
abroad can be, after surviving on Cheese baguettes and Cheese
and Tomato pizzas for a fortnight.
|These are the matches we were lucky enough
We took the Eurostar and arrived in Paris early afternoon.
We had to trek across the city to our hotel in the Montparnasse
area of the city - at least it was handy for the Bordeaux
train early the next morning. This was a real culture shock
for me, as I had not been in a non-English-speaking country
for 6 years, and I was not very confident in my French.
After a wee kip, we headed off to the Parc Des Princes,
where things were getting pretty hectic. After paying £3.50
for a plastic cup of warm beer, we watched the French Riot
Police chase the German skinheads round the block in circles
like something from an Inspector Clouseau film. Inside the
ground, things were pretty carnival like, particularly as
the Germans coasted to an easy 2-0 win against the cheesily-supported
USA. For our part, we were supporting the Americans in honour
of American Dave, who was to join us in Lyon the following
We headed back across to Montparnasse and tried in vain
to get served in a snooty brasserie type place (sit down
and wait or go to the bar? We tried both and were still
ignored!). Probably just as well we agreed, because the
next day was a very early start for Bordeaux.
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We got up around 6am for an early Paris-Bordeaux train,
stupidly neglecting to get a carry-out for the journey.
Thankfully, some fellow Scots took pity on our plight and
donated a few of theirs (cheers, lads!). On arrival at Bordeaux
station around 10.30am it was apparent the pre-match party
was already underway. We grabbed a cab to drop our bags
at the hotel, planning to get straight back into the thick
of it as soon as.
Now, in order to cut costs we had gone for budget accommodation,
which in Bordeaux came in the form of a Formula 1 motel.
This was situated a good 20 minutes by taxi away from the
centre on the wrong side of the river. When we got there
it resembled a refugee camp - after stepping over prone
Scottish bodies to the reception desk a clearly rattled
manager took us up to our bomb-site of a room. He apologised
profusely as he tore the dirty bed-clothes off the beds,
promised us that it would all be cleaned by mid-day and
suggested that we leave our bags in the corner of the room
and go and enjoy ourselves. A free local bus journey later
dropped us off at The Connemara Bar, where after a few £3.50
pints and a meeting with the Cardonald Musketeers we were
reliably informed that a supermarket round the corner was
knocking out cheap cases of Kronie lager. For the price
of two pints, we bought an entire case of 24 bottles each
(12 pints), and drank these on the march to the ground,
distributing spares along the way to any needy causes, both
Scottish and Norwegian.
The atmosphere outside the ground was bouncing, but the
beer was taking its toll and a visit to the lavvy was on
the cards. Due to the sizeable polis presence, I took the
wise step of popping into the large bar on the corner of
the exclusion zone, only to be confronted by a massive queue
for the loos snaking back out the door. Looking around in
desperation I saw a viking-sized Norwegian shaking himself
down in the corner, by a load of piled up chairs and tables.
Never one to miss an opportunity I nipped in to the corner
after him, and a few minutes and several gallons later I
turned around to see another queue behind me of guys with
their kilts hitched in readiness waiting to take my place.
For some reason, Rich has never been comfortable with the
fact that I pissed in the corner of a packed bar in broad
On to the match, in which Scotland earned a creditable
1-1 draw, and a good few hundred fans stayed to sing 'Doe
a deer' for almost an hour after kick-off. By now, a combination
of the travelling and the early drinking was taking its
toll, and Rich and I were both flagging badly. A cheese
baguette and a promise to my mate Mike (who had spent a
year in Bordeaux previously) to check out his favourite
pubs hardened our resolve, and off to the Place de la Victoire
we went. The Sports Cafe was showing the Brazil-Morocco
game, but the moment it finished, off went the lights and
on came the music, with Scots, Norwegians and French all
dancing and drinking together. Much merriment followed,
including a chance meeting with a guy wearing his wife's
red frillies on his head declaring "Je suis le garcon,
I am the boy don't you know", until Rich came up to
me with a worried look on his face explaining we had to
leave NOW. It was only when we got to another bar over the
square that he explained that the bird he was getting off
with had told him that her husband and boyfriend were also
drinking in the same bar that he felt he'd outstayed his
At chucking out time (3am) we staggered down the road
towards the station when we met two French guys who insisted
that they took us to a nightclub. They drove us to Dixies,
down by the river and allayed my dress code fears as they
knew the bouncers. This was immaterial when we got in the
front door and were piped to the bar by a fellow TA footsoldier.
It turned out that David was a marine and Thierry was a
second-team player for Bordeaux Rugby Club. After finishing
just after 5am, and an bagpipe session outside the club
where the piper was taking requests until 6, the French
boys insisted we go back to Thierry's flat for a session
on the Pernod. By this time, Rich and I were done in and
talked them into giving us a lift back to the hotel we had
last seen 18 hours ago, but contained all our belongings.
After eventually mastering the entry PIN code for the door,
and again stepping over bodies in the foyer, we were confronted
with the same bombsite of a room, except all the bedsheets
had been removed. Far too drunk to care, I crawled under
a scratchy blanket on top of my bare mattress and settled
down to all of 3 hours kip before our 10am train to Montpellier.
After less than 24 hours in Bordeaux I had fallen in love
with the people and the place, and was able to answer "yes"
to what became the most asked Scottish question of the trip
- "Were you in Bordeaux?"
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We woke up on the Wednesday
in Bordeaux after around 2 hours sleep, showered in a spaceship
stylee (as is common in Formule 1 establishments) and caught
our train to Montpellier at around 10.30am, still smashed
out of our heads after the previous day's festivities.
The train journey was a bit of blur - around 5 hours on
a local train, complete with torn leatherette seats and
dodgy air-conditioning, and no people. Bizarrely, both of
us were also experiencing some bizarre shared hallucination
as we could both hear bagpipes - yet two full sweeps of
the train turned up no Scots (and very few of anybody).
We got into Montpellier and quickly found our way to our
hotel, in a back street just off the Place de la Comedie,
with a quick lie down before heading out to the Italy v
Cameroon match at the Stade de la Mosson. On the way to
catch the bus, we were approached by a couple of English
lads who engaged us in conversation. We were visibly wary
of them, as was everyone after the events in Marseilles
just a few days previous, but they were quick to disassociate
themselves with that, and wished each other the best and
pushed on to the ground. Once inside the stadium, we took
our seats in the corner, just one row back from the fence,
to find ourselves behind another couple of English guys
(who again were spot on, and even helped tie our flag to
the railings), and next to some German Tartan Army lads.
The stadium itself was quite impressive, with its three
identical covered stands, and its one ridiculous three-tiered,
uncovered beast of a stand. Just like the ground, the game
was pretty one-sided as well. Cheering on Cameroon, as the
underdogs, we watched as Italy barely broke into a stride
to take a 3 goal win. Now at this point, buoyed by our result
against Norway, and safe in the knowledge that Brazil should
beast Norway and we should beat Morocco, we still thought
that we would be playing the winner of Italy's group, so
this game had added significance. And frankly, after seeing
the Italians in action, I didn't fancy our chances! By the
time we'd got back to the town, neither of us could face
a night out, and still shattered from Bordeaux and the travelling,
we took the early night option ahead of a Thursday morning
train to Lyon.
Lyon was to form the base for our two-week sojourn, and
I had managed to book two rooms (as American Dave was joining
us after a few days) for 11 nights at the Lets Go recommended
Hotel des Marrioners, just one street behind the central
Place Bellecour, a snip at £13 per room per night.
However, after finally locating the hotel door (think tenement,
but with a big locked wooden door) and finding it very much
locked, and no response on the phone number I had, panic
began to set in. We were very much aware of how full Lyon
was for the duration, and made our way to the temporary
tourist office in the Place. After a couple of frantic phone
calls the hotelier, a mad Belgian drunk who looked like
Santa Claus, answered and explained that as he was expecting
us later, he'd popped out to do some shopping (very much
a one-man band, this hotel).
Whilst in the tourist tent, we were chatting to an American
lady called Marie (a dead ringer for Suzi Quattro), who
was also experiencing hotel difficulties. She had travelled
independently to see the USA, having first travelled to
Italia '90, but hoped to take in as many games as she could,
and mentioned that she was going to try and get down to
St Etienne for the Spain-Paraguay game the next day (Friday).
We agreed to go with her and arranged to meet up with her
the next day.
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So off on a recce to
St Etienne we went, Rich, me and Suzi Quattro-a-like Maria.
After an hour on the train we bumped into the Inverness
Boys at the other end. We'd chatted to the four young lads
from Inverness (David, Brian, Allan, a tall lad whose name
I've forgotten) in Lyon the previous day, and they seemed
to haunt us at every turn (this continued after the World
Cup, and over time led to the formation of NATA's Inverness
Branch), however on this particular occasion they were one
down, due to a bout of homesickness. The details have been
abridged in order to protect the guilty party's shame, but
as we stood talking in the station foyer, who should appear
up the escalator but the runaway himself!
We bid the boys good luck in finding tickets, as we found
our way to the Main Square, where we paid £50 each
for three £25 tickets (at least they were all next
to each other) - we later found out that we would have managed
to get them outside at near face-value - nonetheless, all
of us had ear-marked "tout cash" for such eventualities,
and thought no more about it. After taking up residence
in a posh cafe-bar before the game (as it had a toilet that
was cleaner than any of our hotels - I didn't want to come
out!), we made our way onto a tram towards the stadium.
We were all looking forward to the game, as Spain had
a reputation for free-flowing, attacking football whilst
Paraguay were cast as the plucky underdogs blessed with
South American skill. Paraguay also had a fat, free-kick
taking nutter in goal. We were supporting Paraguay. We finished
our carry-out at the edge of the exclusion zone, just as
a marching pan-pipe band walked through the barriers. The
atmosphere was building up a treat, and we were happy to
be surrounded by Paraguayans at the top of the stand behind
The game itself was a complete anti-climax, as Paraguay
defended in numbers, stifling Spain. Chilavert only had
a couple of chances at free-kicks, and these weren't dangerous,
so towards the end of the game our alliance shifted away
from the spoiling underdogs towards Spain, who we felt deserved
on the basis of their better football. 0-0 it finished,
and back to Lyon for beer was our only course of action.
The following day American Dave arrived at Lyon airport,
7 hours late and without his luggage. I had waited on my
own at the airport all this time, mastering the World Cup
98 Gameboy game, and when Dave did arrive I almost found
myself arrested for being 'airside' without a passport or
flight ticket whilst trying to communicate in French with
the luggage guy. That night was a bit hazy, as we found
ourselves in yet another lock-in in the excellent St James
Pub, where we had to plead with the barman to open the metal
shutters at 4am so we could get out! Back at the hotel,
Rich was challenged to a lawnmower race by the Scot in the
next room as they spoke out the window, shortly before Maria
tried to get into bed with the hotelier ("I got lost
on my way back from the toilet", she explained the
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Waking up on
the day of the USA-Iran game, Dave's luggage was still missing,
so I lent him an old-style USA top that I happened to had
(a long story, but it is the shirt they wore when embarrassing
England in the 1950 World Cup). We mingled in the main square
with the Iranian fans, their numbers boosted by the majority
of the Scots supporting the underdogs (nothing to do with
the stunningly attractive ladies, then?) - out of loyalty
to Dave, Rich and I were backing the USA.
As we stood in a queue for some snacks on the edge of
the square, a wee old Iranian guy with an ill-fitting baseball
cap came right up to us and stuck up his finger with a big
smile on his face. This cracked us up as we smiled back
at the old guy, but the Scottish lad (the lawnmower man
from the night before) in the queue behind us was not amused
- "you can stick yer politics up yer arse, pal"
was his considered response to the exchange.
Given that Lyon is about the size of Birmingham, we were
shocked to find that the vast majority of bars were shut
on a Sunday, and we were relieved to find one that was open
in the backstreets. This enabled us to warm up for the match
properly before catching a taxi to the ground. When we got
there, we faced a massive security operation to get in,
and I almost had a Lion Rampant flag confiscated for bearing
the word "Scotland". Strangely, around 15,000
Iranians managed to get through with T-Shirts bearing the
word "Rajavi" in tribute to their exiled leader
(one fan actually posted me one of these T-Shirts after
I got back, as he didn't want to part with his own at the
The USA were just as dire as they were against Germany,
and Iran obviously wanted the result so much more. I was
very impressed with Iran as they stormed into a 2 goal lead,
with only a last-minute consolation for the US giving the
score some respectability. Back into town, and the party
was jumping. Unfortunately I wasn't, and had to go to bed
after the game - but reports reached me the following morning
of Rich flagging down a car in order to drag out it's beautiful
Iranian passenger for a dance in the street.
The next day in Lyon saw us take in some sightseeing,
followed by a massive session in the Albion Pub, before
we were led by a suspicious looking geriatric American woman
who had latched onto Rich to a club called The Soul Kitchen.
I had been warned to give this place a wide berth by some
friends who had studied in Lyon, for no particular reason
other than weird things happened there, and sure enough,
they were right. After Maria had managed to score a touted
ticket for the Scotland-Morocco match the next day in the
toilets, a massive argument brewed, and with me and Dave
close to blows (for the first and only time) we left, shouting
at each other down the street. The curse of The Soul Kitchen
had struck again!
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We were in Lyon for a week and a half, apart from one night
in Nantes near the end, and looking back now 3 years after
the event, it's hard to accurately place everything that
happened. Whilst in Lyon I was hit with two bouts of acute
homesickness (quite embarrassing to look back at), and this
combined with a general feeling of lacklustreness stopped
me from going out on two occasions: one was after the USA-Iran
game (above); the other was after an incident in restaurant
either the day before or the day after the Morocco game.
Our hotel was one street behind the Place Bellecour in
the centre of Lyon, in a street packed with cheap restaurants
(a sort of French "Chip Pan Alley"). And I managed
to fall out of one of these restaurants. It was the night
Chris Rea was playing a free concert in Place Bellecour
(I kid you not), and the four of us were sitting at a table
outside a Pizzeria on the decking that sat on top of the
cobbles, as the waiter put my plate on the table I moved
my chair forward and one of the legs shifted off the decking
- the resulting shift in weight caused me to topple off
the decking, taking the plant-potted railing with me as
well - it was the only the quick thinking of a diner at
another table grabbing the railing to stabilise it at an
almost 45 degree angle that saved me from actually hitting
the ground. But it was too late, it seemed like the entire
street was in hysterics at the mad Scotsman - I mumbled
some excuse about not feeling too good and made by way back
to the hotel past the still-sniggering diners.
Anyway, the Soul Kitchen incident definitely happened
the night before the Morocco game, and when I awoke on the
day of the match, neither Dave nor me could remember much
about it. Rich and I donned the face paint (he did his entire
face, I just did my goatee beard, which seemed a good idea
at the time) and we walked to Lyon's town centre station
with Dave and Maria.
After a crowded and very hungover train journey, we got
off at St Etienne - a town already jumping with the Tartan
Army. We found a backstreet restaurant where the chef himself
ushered us in - his wife being the maitre dame. My stock-phrase
"je suis un vegetarian" brought the instant reply
(in English) "But you didn't get so big by eating only
vegetables" had the rest of the table in tears. I had
a specially cooked mushroom omelette, except I couldn't
be too sure if they were mushrooms or kidney, and at the
end of the meal the chef, who we now knew was medically
insane, got a bottle of something off a shelf, brought it
over and said "Now you drink with me". Inside
the bottle was an entire pickled snake - giving me grounds
to excuse myself with the old vegetarian routine, Rich wasn't
so lucky - "But, I hate snakes" brought about
my response - "You can't turn down his hospitality,
he'll be offended. Maria refused, so Dave and Rich had a
shot each, which I smelled before they downed it. Strong?
I thought it was going to make my eyes bleed! As soon as
they had done the deed, the chef, still stood over our table,
patted his wife on the derriere and announced "It's
good for your libido" as Rich and Dave continued to
cough, splutter and sweat.
After we had paid up for the meal, we walked down to the
main square where the party was very much in full swing.
We found seats in a bar at the back of the main square,
then got hold of a carry out and caught the tram to the
environs of the ground (we missed the march by setting off
too early), where we sat outside the exclusion zone and
finished our beers. On the other side of the road a CRS
riot policeman undid his uniform (a kind of all-in-one romper
suit) to reveal a Scotland shirt - as the photograph above
proves. As we walked through towards the turnstiles, Rich
was stopped by several camera crews (his face paint was
quite menacing - small children were running away in tears!),
and the party atmosphere continued.
Into the ground and the nerves were taking hold, but there
must have been at least 20,000 singing Scots in there. Unfortunately,
we were terrible and got gubbed 3-0 by a tactically and
skilfully superior Morocco side. As the final whistle blew,
the Moroccans were in full party mode, until the shocking
news came in that Norway had grabbed a last minute winner
against Brazil. Both sets of fans trooped disconsolately
back to the station, and the atmosphere for the hour-long
journey back to Lyon was pretty sombre, until the train
pulled in and everyone got off, when a rousing chant of
"Tokyo, Tokyo, we're the famous Tartan Army and we're
gaun tae Tokyo" rang out.
Off to the Albion Bar to commiserate, Dave swears he was
flashed at by a drunk Scot sprawled on the stage at the
back of the ground floor - "Dude, he was looking at
me and playing with himself, man!" At this stage, Rich
and I were seriously contemplating just cutting our losses
and heading home two matches early.
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The day after the St Etienne massacre we just bummed around
- Dave's flight back to the States was the day after the
USA played Yugoslavia in Nantes, and he couldn't make it
to Nantes and back in time, so he was going to have a day
on his own in Lyon. Rich and I had made the decision to
stay and try and enjoy the rest of the trip, although thousands
of fellow Scots were packing up and leaving for home.
The next day Maria, Rich and I set off on for the train
to Nantes leaving Dave and most of our luggage at the hotel
in Lyon - I later found out that Dave spent the day in an
underground pool bar. To say our journey was ardous is putting
it mildly. We had reservations for seats - this turned out
to be in a carriage full of screaming American kids on a
slow, cross-country train with no air-conditioning and leatherette
benches to sit on (no tables or anything). The journey was
sheer hell, and after a very uncomfortable 7 hours we pulled
in to Nantes station. As Dave was unable to come to the
game, I had passed the ticket on to my father, and he met
us at the Station.
After finding the hotel (the best one we stayed in for
the whole trip) we found a great bar near the central tram
stop. After a leisurely tram journey out to the ground and
a quick beer nearby, we made our way into the Stadium. The
Stade de la Beaujoire is for me probably the best ground
I've been in, although the beautiful summer evening may
have had something to do with that (see the sunset in the
The only thing that spoiled it slightly was the presence
of large numbers of Yugoslavian (i.e. Serbian) hooligans,
who greeted their national anthem with nazi salutes and
hurled abuse at all around them. The game finished 1-0 to
Yugoslavia, and the American coach's strange idea of a 3-6-1
formation continued to make for appalling football.
Afterwards, we went back to the same bar, before walking
Maria to the station (she had an early flight home from
Paris the next morning). The town was still buzzing as we
made our way back to the hotel, and dozens of dodgy-looking
Yugoslav fans kept coming up to us to shake our hands and
tell us how much they loved Scotland (we had Scotland shirts
and tartan trousers on).
After leaving our friend on his own in Lyon, and travelling
the width of France in extreme discomfort to see a terrible
match (albeit in beautiful surroundings), the only thought
that kept us going was that we were booked on a nice, fast,
air-conditioned train for the return journey the next day.
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Still on a downer after not qualifying, and now back in
Lyon both Dave and Maria-less, Rich and I agreed that we
should still go down to Marseilles to see the Italy-Norway
second round game. We had already seen both teams earlier
in the tournament, and given the rapport we had with the
Norwegians we decided to back them.
As we made our way down the main road from the Station
to the port, we popped into a sports shop so Rich could
get a Monaco shirt (he was already getting carried away
with all the "John Collins?" comments). We were
getting real hostility from the customers and shop assistants
until we explained "Nous sommes Ecossais" - this
was only a week and half after the English hooligans had
wrecked the place. We had a few beers down by the waterfront
and then made our way onto a stadium-bound bus. On the bus
was a tattoo-ed English sailor, bragging to us about how
funny it was during the riots, and taking the mickey that
we were on our way home already - "At least we're welcome
back" came the reply, which shut him up a treat.
We had to walk the long way round the ground to find our
turnstile, and we were sat level with the 18 yard box in
the uncovered side-stand - the sun was relentless. By half-time
I was shivering and covered in cold-sweat with the onset
of sun-stroke, and by the end I was grateful that Norway
couldn't find an equaliser for Italy's first-half strike
as it meant no extra-time to suffer. The entire game was
dire, and my whole memory of Marseille was soured by the
extreme heat and the attitude of all the English fans we
had the misfortune to meet there.
We got the first possible train back to Lyon, only to
find the bars beginning to fill up with English fans preparing
for the Argentina game in St Etienne a couple of days later.
With the streets no longer safe for Scots, Rich and I decided
to get an early train up to Paris the next day (a day early)
to try and bring our Eurostar tickets forward. The worst
case scenario would be spending a night in Paris, but this
was far preferable to staying in Lyon any longer than was
necessary. As it turned out, we were sat on a Eurostar within
30 minutes of arriving at the Gare du Nord, and were back
in London on Sunday afternoon. One person who wasn't best
pleased to see me back early was Helen, who hadn't done
the dishes or shaved her legs!
And that was that, the story of the Netley Abbey Tartan
Army's (except we didn't know it then!) first away adventure.
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first match since the 3-0 drubbing by Morocco still attracted
around 1,500 travelling Scots, some of whom had visited
Lithuania previously en-route to Belarus.
Helen managed to get confused for a high-class Lithuanian
call girl, by the said high-class Lithuanian call-girls
that frequented the hotel bar. Vilnius is not the sort of
place to go for a quiet drink after dark, so most of our
drinking was done in the hotel.
As for the game, it finished 0-0, and was so dull that
Ally McCoist is rumoured to have said to John Collins in
the dressing room afterwards "John, did you know that
there were 4,057 people in the crowd today", "How
do you know that, Ally", "Becasue I counted them
whilst I was waiting for a pass from you, you greedy bastard!".
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The Germany trip was a funny one, and Rich and I only decided
to go at the last minute (as did almost everyone I spoke
to). Not speaking any German, I faithfully learned how to
say the usual: "please", "thank you",
"two beers". This was later to back-fire, as after
becoming acquainted with regular traveller Robbie Jenkins
on the airport bus, and then meeting the Inverness lads
again, we were soon in rounds of five (so beer was bought
in multiples of two for the duration).
A great build-up to the match followed by a strong first-half
performance meant things were looking good, but then a power
cut in the stadium threatened the game. To the German fans'
amazement, the Tartan Army, our numbers swelled by the squaddies
stationed in Germany, burst into song. The first electrics
restored were to the PA system, so we spent a further 20
minutes with a bit of a disco vibe going on.
The second half eventually restarted, and Don Hutchison
fired home an Allan Johnston pass for what was to be an
unexpected and momentous victory. As we drank into the night,
Rich and I became separated, only to meet up at 7am the
next day over breakfast at the hotel, neither of us having
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decided to forego the Faroes trip (which I regretted all
day on the Saturday) in favour of a week in Prague. Four
of us shared an apartment: Rich, Helen, me and first-time
Tartan Army traveller Welsh Steve.
Prague is famed for its castle, the Charles Bridge and
other medieval gems, none of which we bothered to look at
until we had done a tour of the grounds in the city - our
unanimous favourite was Viktoria Zizkov, where there was
a fully functional pub inside the ground (see bottom left
photo), knocking out beer at under 20pence a pint.
A great time was had by all, with many stories and incidents
far too numerous to go into detail here (I can tell you
stage-diving, busty hot dog sellers and Rich wearing make-up
were involved) - if you really want to know, ask Rich (he
seems to be writing a book on it!) or e-mail me.
The game itself saw Scotland throw away a 2-0 lead to lose
3-2, but that didn't seem to matter given the price of the
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sits in a horseshoe shaped valley, with the airport at the
open end. Our hotel was at the far end, so the bus journey
took us past flats and houses still bearing the scars from
the war - this had a bit of a sobering effect on the normally
boisterous tartan army.
Well, what can I say about Sarajevo. The people are amazing,
the city is so full of youthful energy, and it is place
both myself and Rich are committed to returning to. Everywhere
we went in the city centre there were welcoming crowds of
young people having a great time and drinking Sarajesvka,
the excellent local brew.
The match itself was played in the large bowl of the Kosevo
Stadium, built for the 1984 Winter Olympics. Scotland won
2-1 with a spectacular 25-yarder from Billy Dodds. After
a brief flashpoint at the end with some local skinheads,
the majority of the Scotland fans retired to the nearby
Harp Bar in search of some refreshment.
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game was just 4 days after the Bosnia match, the difficulty
in getting cheap connections meant that a lot of fans headed
home, myself included. Rich sat this one out due to work
commitments, but myself and Helen found ourselves staying
in the same hotel as the team.
I don't know if I was still hungover from Bosnia, but Saku
beer is easily the worst drink I have ever tasted - slightly
worse than battery acid! Time for the vodka, then!
Tallinn is a great place to go out drinking, with very
friendly locals and very friendly prices in a beautiful
Prague-like city centre, which almost made up for the dismal
0-0 draw (but not quite). I missed out on the "Kiss
The Scotsman" night at one of the nightclubs though
- Helen didn't fancy it for some reason.
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The first leg of the play-off was a well-documented
and unmitigated disaster, compounded by the fact that despite
my best endeavours I stayed sober.
For the second leg, David from Inverness and Alasdair from
Milngavie came down and stayed at my Sussex residence. After
a Tuesday night taking in the double delights of a Worthing
FC victory and a student night at a Brighton nightclub,
we were up bright and early for the train to London.
What followed is a tale of a £200 kitty spent at
a variety of bars across London, culminating in drinking
vodka out of Coca Cola bottles on the tube (and inside the
ground), and a £45 mobile phone bill for getting a
wee bit emotional.
And the game? Oh aye, apparently we won 1-0.
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