Germans march with tartan army
THEY are perhaps the most unlikely division of the Tartan Army, the German battalion who have travelled from the Fatherland to demonstrate their devotion to the 11 men sporting the Saltire at Hampden.
Ahead of today’s crucial Euro 2004 qualifier, members of Gerta - the German Tartan Army - have shrugged off their national yoke to give their all to their adopted country.
Bedecked in tartan and the occasional Jerry helmet, Ulli Weigmann, a portfolio manager with Dresdner Bank in Frankfurt, will lead the friendly invasion along with other diehards from across Germany.
Explaining why anyone in their right mind would swap allegiance from one of the world’s best national footballing teams to a nation placed 64th in the FIFA rankings, Mr Weigmann, 42, said Gerta members, became "infected" by the Tartan Army’s exuberance. "I think it is some kind of virus."
Before today’s big match, Gerta members will meet up with other footsoldiers from around the world in the Pandora Bar, Victoria Road, just a stone’s throw from the National Stadium.
German beers will, however, be banned from the bevvy session, with Tennant’s Lager and malt whisky substituting traditional Bavarian brews.
Mr Weigmann explained that he first saw the Scottish national team in the 1974 World Cup when he went with his father to see Scotland draw 1-1 with Yugoslavia in Frankfurt. Even at the tender age of 11, he understood the collective despair endured so often by such loyal supporters.
"Over the years, as they finished every tournament, Scotland needed a win, but every time they failed," he said.
His interest in Scottish football progressed, as he took in the few club forays in Europe. Holidays in Scotland perfected his English by talking football on the terraces and, in the pubs afterwards, of vainglorious defeat.
When Scotland qualified for the 1992 European Championships in Sweden he joined the official SFA travel club. Arriving in the Scandinavian country alone, he was soon adopted by the hordes kitted-out in kilts.
"I met some guys who took me with them and introduced me to the Tartan Army," he explained. "That week was unforgettable for me."
Mr Weigmann says he tries to go to Scotland matches two or three times a year. He has also taken his wife, Tanja, to games and as soon as his two sons, Philip, aged five, and Maximilian, two, are old enough, they will be conscripted into Gerta.
The Tartan Army’s ber- division was officially formed after the World Cup in 1998, although Gerta had been around unofficially since German fans like Mr Weigmann travelled to matches in the 70s.
The adopted Scots have created their own website and exchange e-mails to organise pre-and-post-match pleasantries.
Any hint of a deviation in allegiance to the homeland, is quickly snuffed out by mention of Scotland’s German coach, Berti Vogts.
Mr Weigmann said: "I always thought Berti wasn’t the right coach for Scotland."
Gerta will be joined in the Hampden pilgrimage by Tartan Army divisions from Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Holland, the US and Paris. Thousands of native conscripts will also travel from across Scotland, including the Sporran Legion from West Lothian, which describes itself as the "advance guard of the Tartan Army".
Mr Weigmann, however, is looking forward to the flight back to a subdued flight back to Frankfurt.
"As a Tartan Army footsoldier, I’m looking forward to celebrating on a quiet flight full of German fans," he joked, "and taking home the full three points."
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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