Saturday Auld Firm clashes meant scrambling for early buses to get out of Glasgow, abandoning your fun in Chelsea Girl and at the cosmetics counters in Boots. Getting clear of the streets before the tidal wave of raging fans hit was imperative, particularly for women, and even more for women with children.
Oh, I know things have changed, but those early memories of feeling the fear generated by a simple game creeping over an entire city switched me off football, which was a pity.
My grandfather had actually been a good semi-professional footballer. His daughter, my mum, still loves the game. Watching her simultaneously crochet and rant at referees during past World Cups was a wonder to behold. Her calls were nearly always right. The old gal knows her stuff.
Could have done with mum being about for a few pointers when I watched the Lionesses smash Sweden 4-0 to reach the UEFA Women’s final. I mean, I get the general idea. Both sides have to score goals whilst simultaneously stopping the other side from scoring goals.
In my limited way, I quite enjoyed it, but it was the atmosphere in Sheffield that caught my attention.
The fans were joyous to watch.
Camera crews were filming women and girls with the Cross of St George on their faces and they were fizzing with fun.
A group of Swedish girls passed. One of them was wearing what looked like a knitted Viking helmet on her head, complete with horns. God knows where you get the pattern for that. The horns were drooping. The English girls loved it, and the Swedish girls hooted with glee.
I saw a mum with her little girl, fitted out in a tiny England strip, who confidently predicted a huge win for the Lionesses. I look forward to hearing her commentary in future. She certainly seemed to speak more sense than some of the grown-up fellas I’ve had the misfortune to accidentally watch. Another little girl danced in the stands.
Even the men seemed to be actually enjoying themselves.
And I heard the most surprising thing of all. Scottish accents. Now, as you know, there are people in Scotland who, in any sporting situation, adopt the ABE approach (anyone but England), but these young women were not there to support Sweden.
They were behind the Lionesses. Obviously, they said, we’d turn out for our own lassies, but they were proud of the young women playing in the English jerseys.
It was a fantastic celebration of the beautiful game. An incredible showcase of women’s athleticism. An astounding moment creating powerful role models for those little dancing girls. My heart leapt when I heard those young Scottish women, because they took that tiny-minded tribalism and smashed it.
A Scotland confident in herself can cheer on our neighbours. Yes, I’m going to watch the final, and I’ll be cheering on the Lionesses.