EM 2024: And they just kept celebrating

EM 2024: And they just kept celebrating

There was a brief hint of Scottish grumpiness in the Munich evening air. The score was 2-0 a few minutes before half-time in the opening match of the European Championship, and then the French referee awarded a penalty. Germany made it 3-0 after less than 45 minutes. Collective head shaking.

But bad mood? A completely understandable bad Scottish mood? It was not expressed. Not in insults towards the cheering Germans. Not in angry cursing, not in fights. The bad moods disappeared as quickly as they had come. Even as the teams trotted towards the dressing room for half-time, the Scottish fans in Munich’s Olympic Park started singing again: “We’ll be coming, we’ll be coming, we’ll be coming down the road …”

“We are a proud country. And we are proud to be friendly,” says Calum Youngson.

Days before the opening match, the Tartan Army, as the fans of the Scottish national team are called, took over Munich’s Marienplatz, the surrounding streets and of course the pubs in the city center. They sang, danced, drank, played music and jumped into the Munich fish fountain. One fan even had his kilt lifted in front of the TV cameras. Nevertheless, the Scots made many friends.

Four hours before the game starts on Friday evening. The fan zone in Munich’s Olympic Park has long been so crowded that the city has decided to stop admission. Queues are forming in front of the beer bars and sausage stands, in some places more than a hundred meters long. Calum Youngson, originally from Aberdeen, and his friend Francis Cullen, who comes from Glasgow, have secured their beer; six mugs are at their feet. “We queued for three hours,” says Cullen.

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The two arrived in Munich on the morning of the game, like tens of thousands of their compatriots in the past few days. With them: Youngson’s bagpipes. He has attached a cardboard sign to them: “I need a ticket“. He’s slowly realising that this isn’t going to work anymore, so he’ll just watch the game here.

A young woman in a German Check24 jersey taps Youngson on the shoulder. She has heard that playing the bagpipes is incredibly difficult. “Do you want to try?” he asks back. And he tucks the instrument under her arm. The woman blows and blows, but no sound can be heard. The Scots laugh, scenes like this have been repeated for hours. “I’ll probably have Covid tomorrow, but it would be worth it,” says Youngson.

How do Youngson and Cullen explain that – according to estimates by the British consulate – more than 100,000 Scots have travelled to Germany? “I’ve never been to a game abroad as a fan,” says Youngson. “But to be honest, there’s never been a real reason to do so.”

“For most of the past 25 years, Scotland have played pretty bad football. The most memorable Scotland games of my life have actually always been defeats, like the 1996 European Championship match against England with the Paul Gascoigne wonder goal,” says Cullen. The man in the dark kilt, Scotland jersey and black sneakers is 40 years old. As an adult, he has never had the opportunity to see Scotland in an international tournament. At the 1998 World Cup, he was still too young and sat alone in the living room when his father watched the games in the pub. He was unable to travel to the 2021 European Championship because of the Covid restrictions that are still in place.

“It was now clear that we were going to be there,” says Cullen. After all these years, a lot of Scottish fans feel the same way.

Finally seeing the team at a big tournament. That’s what you hear everywhere in Munich these days. From Chris from Edinburgh. From John from Glasgow. From Gavin from Kilmarnock. So it’s no wonder that some of the Scottish fans have already made their journey an adventure.

David Honeyman, for example. Three weeks ago he got into his campervan in Scotland and drove off. First through enemy territory in England, then by ferry to the European mainland. For almost a week now he has been touring Bavaria with his son Jonathan, first walking through Neuschwanstein Castle in a kilt and now across Marienplatz.

Or 20-year-old Craig Ferguson, who walked more than 1,600 kilometers from Glasgow to the Bavarian capital, raising money for Brothers in Arms, an organization dedicated to preventing suicide among men. He collected more than 50,000 British pounds by the time he arrived in Munich. His fellow countrymen welcomed him like a hero in the middle of the week, showering him with beer and scotch in joy.

Part of the Tartan Army’s grand entrance is their look. The unofficial fan uniform consists of a dark blue jersey and a kilt – sometimes red, sometimes dark blue, sometimes forest green. “I hardly ever wear my kilt in everyday life. I think the last time I wore it was at my wedding,” says Francis Cullen. The outfit is of course part of the Tartan Army’s appearance abroad: “It makes an impression, but it’s also a nice opportunity to show off Scottish tradition.”

Crazy but peaceful: a Scottish fan doing a somersault into Munich’s Fischbrunnen © Bradley Collyer/​dpa

Would the Scots be so well received in Germany if they didn’t wear their special outfits?

The fact that the Tartan Army has won the hearts of foreign fans is nothing new. The Scots were voted the best fans at the 1992 European Championships in Sweden. They were honored again at the 1998 World Cup, and in 2002 they received the Fair Play Award from the Belgian Olympic Committee. It was a long road to this, however; in the 1970s and 1980s the Scots had a similar hooligan problem to their English neighbors. The situation only improved when a travel club for away fans was introduced with the aim of promoting responsible behavior.

When the game was long over, Calum Youngson was discussing things with a group of German fans. Was a penalty AND a red card really necessary? “If you want, you can become German, we’ll take you in,” a strong guy in a Müller jersey offers him. They hug each other, reconciling over their beer mugs.

The clear result contributes to the fact that things remain calm and that no one is really abusive. But so do the Scots.”We’ve got McGinn, super John McGinn, I just don’t think you understand …”, they roar even after the praised player has long since been substituted. When the German fans ironically start singing another of the Scots’ favourite songs, No Scotland, No Partythe men in kilts simply sing along.

When the game is over and the fan zone empties, the Scots head back to Marienplatz, their little piece of home far away, where everyone knows them and there is always a fellow countryman. They just keep celebrating.

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Further

Only once does someone get a little angry and boos ring out. When a Scot, sitting on the shoulders of a friend and having a good view, spots a fan in the crowd wearing an opposing team’s jersey. It is white, but does not have black, red and gold stripes, but rather three lions on the chest. In bold red letters on the back it says: Beckham.

Despite all the friendliness, an England jersey is going too far.

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