Football is an addiction, like many fans I cannot get enough of football, even during the close season. But recently I have grown disillusioned. The game I grew up loving has changed. No longer is it relatable to a normal working guy like myself. No longer is it just a sport it is a business. A business that is running out of control. It promotes huge inequality and fuels excess and greed. We have enough of that in modern life without it being in football. It was reported that Neymar was going to be sold to PSG for £190 million. Yes let me repeat £190 million , at a time when people are having to go to food banks the world’s top players are being bought for sums that are astronomical and totally illogical , as one player cannot make a team. Even in Scotland our clubs have become distant from the fans.
It because of this I have always enjoyed following the mens national team because regardless of your status in the club game, when you pull on the dark blue you are representing your country for no personal gain. It really is 11 v 11. But of course the Scottish mens team have performed fairly poorly in recent years. Compare this to the women’s team which is on an upwardly trajectory. So when I heard that they had qualified for the Women’s European Championship in Netherlands it seemed the perfect opportunity to see Scotland play in a major tournament.
Having never been to women’s match I was unsure as what to expect. The first match in Utrecht between Scotland and England was eagerly anticipated. The official fan zone was a family friendly atmosphere aiding to the build up. No animosity that normally goes with this fixture. The stadium was as expected in Holland a modern facility with excellent transport links and all at an affordable 10 Euros. The match despite the poor result for Scotland was memorable . The atmosphere was terrific and the pink Scotland shirts lit up the stadium. England deserved to win , maybe not 6-0, but they have players who play at very a high level week in week out.
The next match was in Rotterdam , a modern city at the gateway to Europe. The atmosphere in the city was lower key than the previous match . But the Tartan Army travelled in expectation, Portugal was a team that we were expected to win against. But then again Scotland was not at full strength in this tournament. It was solid attacking performance from Scotland but defensive mistakes cost us again as they were beaten 2-1.
But the Scottish women are made of stern stuff. Many had written them off going on into the final match with Spain. But in typical Scottish fashion the girls put in a tremendous performance. Gemma Faye, the Scotland keeper put in a tremendous performance pulling off a couple of top class saves to keep Scotland in the match. Then a rather unconventional goal aided by a deflection from Caroline Weir put them in front. They held on heroically and could even have snuck the 2-0 win they required. As it was they went out of their first finals tournament on goal difference. Another chapter in the Scottish book of near misses.
I attended the first two matches and watched a lot of the other nations matches on the television and have been impressed at the quality and commitment that is shown. It can be seen that international football is the peak of the women’s game. New stars have been created in this tournament and a generation of young girls now have relatable role models to look up to. It was such an enjoyable experience as promotion of the game was the main focus of UEFA. There was no over commercialisation of the tournament allowing football to promoted to all fans. Scottish football will have benefitted greatly from this experience. And hopefully more will turn out to follow the women’s’ world cup qualifying campaign. I certainly will try to attend some of the matches, as this has reignited my faith in the beautiful game.The womens game will grow and hopefully professional leagues will develop and standards improve by increased participation. But I really hope that some of the less appealing elements of the mens game are not copied. Somehow I don’t think they will be .As when the game is played purely for the love of the game it really is inspiring.