Twenty-five degree weather, drinks outside the stadium, rival fans happily interacting with each other, Do-Re-Me being sung – Scotland fans were back at a World Cup.
A predominantly female, if modest, crowd beamed positivity in the hours leading up to the match. The Stade de Nice may be remote, but there was one food stall selling lager and, unsurprisingly given the culture across the UK, the line stretched along the road.
Alcohol and football often don’t mix, but there was no danger of anything untoward happening here. St George’s cross wearers laughed along with those in See-You-Jimmy hats. All the while, a group of children eagerly kicked a ball around. The mood was family friendly and it was a safe space for everyone to enjoy their holiday and the day’s football ahead.
Inside the ground wasn’t any different. Though pockets would congregate, there was no segregation inside the ground, which only added to the inclusive nature of the contest and friends-not-foes atmosphere.
This writer would never repeat on social media some of the things I routinely shout at matches. If I did I’d be cancelled within seconds. It’s typical behaviour of any person that gets infected by the tribalism that is such a feature of the men’s game, where typically respectful people turn into raging abusers of those who wear or prefer one colour to the other. Having someone directly beside you following the opposition holds back those urges.
It was part of a wider encourage-not-criticise approach throughout the respective supports. If a ball was miscontrolled or pass aimlessly drifted out the park, there was no cacophony of frustration that followed.
That’s not to say it was completely passive: goals were still celebrated heartily; perceived injustices were still booed.
Ultimately, though, the atmosphere was a little flat, due largely to the stretching empty sections around the stadium. But in the future it will get better.
Crowds will continue to grow and the product on the park, entertaining until the end, will get the sell-out backing that it deserves.