Sixteen years on, the Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal has donated more than £100,000 to a variety of children’s charities around the world.
Scotland fans are renowned for travelling in numbers to watch their heroes play abroad – no matter what the distance or how slim the chances of victory.
“It’s about making friends as we go,” said John Daly, who attended his first Scotland game in 1965 and has been chairman of the Sunshine Appeal since 2006.
The ethos of the appeal is simple. Fans raise funds all year round and the proceeds are split equally and donated to a local children’s charity before every match Scotland play away from home – no matter where in the world.
The first donation was made to a Lithuanian charity before a match in Vilnius in 2003. The 60th donation will be presented before Scotland play Malta on 4 September in Attard.
But it was a trip in 1999 to Bosnia – then still reeling from the aftermath of a brutal civil war – that first sparked the idea that Scotland fans could help make a difference around the world.
“A group of supporters got talking to a UN translator, who later told them the story of a local boy called Kemal Karic,” said Daly, a retired steel plant manager from Houston, Renfrewshire.
“Kemal was being carried across a square in Sarajevo in 1992 by his mother to take shelter from the shelling of the city. A bomb exploded close to them. His mother was killed and Kemal lost the lower part of one leg.”
The group of Scotland fans decided to help Kemal by raising money to pay for a new prosthetic limb. And once that was achieved, the Sunshine Appeal was born. “If there was one charity type we donate most to, it would be children’s hospital wards. But we’ve donated to a wide variety over the years,” Daly said. “And we’ve donated in Japan, Iceland, Florida… all over the world.
“The charity has to be non-government-funded, non-political and non-religious. Our 15-strong steering group will make a collective decision on who to support.”
Preparations are made well in advance. If there’s a rumour Scotland may be playing a friendly match abroad in four months’ time, the appeal’s members are already researching possible charities in that country.
“When Scotland played France in June, we had first heard in February that a game could be on the cards from a group of French Tartan Army supporters.”
The amount donated to each charity per match has risen steadily over the years, from £1,000 to £5,000.
Like every Scotland fan, Daly, 59, hopes one day to see his team returning to the World Cup finals.
“It would be great to take the Sunshine Appeal to Russia in 2018,” he said.“We have a tough qualifying group. As we say in the Tartan Army – the despair we can handle, it’s the hope that kills us.”