Hampden Park, 1700 hrs, Scotland kicked off its part of the London 2012 Olympics with a match between holders USA and France.
We scored tickets to the fixture through our primary school, and decided that this was an opportunity not to be missed. It is the Olympics after all and my girls were thrilled to be going to an event. They were also thrilled to see so many goals, particularly as every time the ball hit the back of the net we distributed wine gums in celebration.
Of course being non partisan in these matters is not possible and so we chose who we were going to support, not on form, or geopolitical allegiances, but on strip, boot colour and hair style (and I should state here, being the responsible adult in this matter, that we did talk about these teams’ respective rankings and how they had done in previous Olympics, but I was overruled). We havered when France went 2-0 up – the first was a belter, the second a mess – but as soon as USA regained their shape, we knew it was the Yankees we’d stick with. No, really it was. Although my youngest did state that she might prefer the kit of the French goalkeeper which was bright, BRIGHT orange.
It has to be said that TV spoils live events for kids these days. I think my two were slightly non-plussed by our distance from the action, and the fact that there wasn’t some bloke doing the commentary. Actually I was rather pleased that he wasn’t because although the game didn’t fizz with pace there was enough individual skill, goals, possession, goals, tackling, goals … Well you get the idea, and I couldn’t help thinking that a commentary might be just the slightest bit patronising, which I would have hated my girls to have been exposed to (although it must be admitted we will now be watching further matches in this series so that may be unavoidable).
The atmosphere at Hampden Park was very family and on the one hand that was as it should be for an Olympic event, on the other it meant that it felt like the crowd wasn’t as involved as ordinarily it would be in an international match. The only chanting we got was U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A which ain’t exactly going to win the pullitzer prize for excellence in chanting … What with the distance from the pitch, and the lack of that visceral zing that a good footy match elicits from its fans, I felt I had not given my two the best that soccer has to offer. That said, my first game was a belter between Chelsea and Newcastle in the bad old 80s and I know which one I’d choose now.
No, and that was the other thing, which of course I did not mention to the kids, it really did feel as if we were at the thin outer edge of something very big and very exclusive indeed (and that we were being let into for a quick peek). Whatever your thoughts about the question of independence, it really does seem bizarre to be going to a football match in Glasgow at Scotland’s national stadium for a sporting event called ‘London 2012′. It’s as if a corner of a Scottish (sporting) field is for-at-least-a-week England. There were banners saying London 2012 lining all the approaches to the stadium which seemed really, really incongruous. As I bridled indignantly, and silently, I found myself wondering whether the IOC should start awarding countries rather than cities the Olympics – the event is big enough after all to be a properly national occasion in everything, including name.
Oh and did I say that USA scored four times? a couple of good goals, one very soft one from a corner (was the French goalie distracted by the bright BRIGHTNESS of her orange strip? I was and therefore nearly missed the well-executed header) and another which eldest daughter called simply untidy.
We decided the States would meet Team GB in the final and the red, white and blues might just edge it.