España 82

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Scottish Friendly’s first football themed ISA is an excuse for me to reminisce about my first love…

My involvement with the World Cup began on a cold September night in Glasgow. It was a crucial qualifier for the tournament in Spain the following summer, Scotland versus Sweden at Hampden Park on Wednesday the 9th September, 1981 to be precise.

I remember approaching the decrepit stadium in the thronging crowd with my father and younger brother. It rained. It nearly always rained – just as it does now. And the excitement was palpable for a seven year old.

Outside the stadium I looked up and noticed the ‘P’ missing from Park, so the sign read ‘Hampden ark’ – and the grand old lady looked as ancient as Noah’s famous vessel and probably smelled as bad. You see back in the day, football stadiums were very different to the shiny all seated arenas we have now. More of that later.

My most vivid memory is of climbing the stadium steps to the terracing, firstly hearing the skirl of the pipes (which they have now done away with) and then emerging into the cold night air to see the most vivid green I had ever seen in my life – the floodlit and hallowed Hampden pitch.

Few experiences, if any, can I remember as having been more exciting in my younger years.

As mentioned above, these were different days. There was no family section – indeed there was hardly another child or a person of the female persuasion in sight. The majority of fans had probably had some cold refreshments on their way to the game too, and the smell of alcohol, fried food, cigar smoke and cheap aftershave permeated the air.

I don’t remember any toilets. If there were, people just relieved themselves on the back wall of the stadium anyway, and I can distinctly remember nimbly traversing the frothy yellow torrents which sparkled in the floodlit night as they cascaded down the shabby terracing.

But these little details all added to the ‘big match’ experience.

The game itself was a triumph. The then hero of the tartan army was a toothless Joe Jordan. He was famous for scoring vital goals for Scotland in their hour of need and that night he delivered again when he  scored a fearless diving header to lead Scotland to victory against Sweden and win the qualification group (yes that’s right – Scotland used to win things) which sent us on our merry way to Spain 82.

And so to Spain.

I wasn’t there that long hot summer – I just watched it on television. But I might as well have been, so engrossed was I in the sizzling soccer spectacle on display.

Even now when I hear the 1982 BBC World Cup theme tune (thanks YouTube) I am taken back to the searing heat and balmy evenings of that summer. (It wasn’t until recently that I found out that this tune is actually the overture to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats musical but I digress.)

Scotland’s first game was against New Zealand. We were expected to win easily. We started well and had them on the floor at 3-0 then let them get back to 3-2 then scored another 2 for good measure.

The Brazilians then thrashed us 4-1.

Brazil were truly awesome in their glittering golden shirts which shimmered in the hot Spanish sun (the ropey television signal only added to the effect). I had never seen colours so bright. Like football gods come down to earth, they were here to show lesser mortals how to play.

And then there was the legendary France versus Germany semi-final when France were so cruelly defeated on penalties by the dastardly Germans after a pulsating 3-3 semi-final draw.

Scotland went out in the first round (as they did in these days) when two of their best players bumped into each other to let Russia score and put us out in the final group game. But that’s all water under the bridge now.

Even the football pundits back then were more interesting. It seemed they were wheeled into the studio just to spout their barking mad opinions and deliberately mis-pronounce foreign player’s names. Today we have wearisome former footballers (naming no names) in their  buttoned up shirts droning on endlessly about defensive shape and other uninteresting minutiae.

Ah the memories – and it’s not the same any more is it? Or is it just me?

My own son is more or less the age I was when I was hypnotised by España 82. He, like I did, loves the beautiful game and I hope he will enjoy this year’s tournament as much as I did back then.

Sure the players and the pundits don’t have that same earthy appeal as they did in days gone by. Today they are more arrogant, over-paid and well groomed  – but then there’s less pee, alcohol and cheap aftershave.

Whatever happens, I am looking forward to another great summer of football.

Ole! (Or whatever they say in Brazil.) And may the best team win!

Reminiscing over football memories is great when looking forward to future events. My Team Select (ISA) could help you invest towards a future event ticket, travel or just to get into the habit of putting a little away each month.

Stock market investments can go down as well as up and you could get back less than you have paid in.

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