Night of fake kilts and real hope for Scots

Glasgow wins friends and does the Euro 2008 bid proud
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The Independent Online

Just around teatime on Wednesday, the clocks were turned back in Glasgow. By about 25 years. The huge banners which hung from lampposts throughout the city may have proclaimed the arrival of the Champions' League final 2002, but the mood was more reminiscent of Wembley 1977.

Just around teatime on Wednesday, the clocks were turned back in Glasgow. By about 25 years. The huge banners which hung from lampposts throughout the city may have proclaimed the arrival of the Champions' League final 2002, but the mood was more reminiscent of Wembley 1977.

The streets around Hampden Park came to a standstill as the hordes in dodgy-looking kilts and those atrocious tartan bonnets and See-You-Jimmy wigs, pioneered by Russ Abbott, spilled out into the roads clutching what was left of their drinks. Marauding Scots, yet again?

Only the accent betrayed the invaders. This was not the Tartan Army, but simply a Spanish armada letting its (fake) hair down. Over 20,000 Real Madrid fans had come in search of a party and Glasgow provided it. The celebrations uncorked by Zinedine Zidane's vintage goal went on long into the night, thanks to the special late licence which kept bars open until 1.30am. The ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley suggested this was for the benefit of locals who would seize upon "any excuse" for a drink, but the largesse was intended principally for European consumption.

The Champions' League final was a dry run for Scotland's campaign to host Euro 2008, jointly with the Republic of Ireland. Accommodating the continental tastes of over 30,000 fans of Real and Bayer Leverkusen enhanced the Scots' claim, in the eyes of Uefa, just 16 days before the official submission of bids.

"We have been away from Scotland for too long," said Gerhard Aigner, Uefa's general secretary, the next morning. "There is a great enthusiasm for football here and the Scottish people seem to be proud to host international events. I think this will help [the bid]. We have proof that we get excellent co-operation here."

Nowhere was that more evident than in the "soft" policing of the occasion. Glasgow's finest turned a blind eye to things that would normally see locals arrested. Contrary to belief, it is an offence to drink in the street in Scotland or enter a football stadium drunk. The days of the carry-out were consigned to history in 1980 by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act.

Had Manchester United reached the final, it would have been different. The last time riot shields came out in Glasgow was when England hooligans terrorised the city after the Euro 2000 play-off, and it would have been folly to allow the thousands – especially those without a ticket – the same latitude given to Spaniards and Germans.

Instead, the sound of broken glass was replaced with tinkling tills as Real and Bayer supporters drank together. The only crime was one of fashion: an enterprising Mad-rileño had kitted out hordes of Real fans, who arrived at Glasgow airport in the fake kilt modelled so unflatteringly by a burly pitch invader who cuddled Roberto Carlos.

Tyldesley, though, was taken in by the dupe. ITV's man had to apologise after branding the pitch invader, and another who turned out to be a Scouse serial streaker, as "native troublemakers".

Indeed, the only grumbles heard were those with English accents. A posse of Burberry-capped Cockney touts cursed their failure to sell £50 tickets for £150, while inside the ground a London-based writer complained that Hampden's 52,000 capacity was "too small" to host the European Championships, until it was pointed out that Holland and Belgium held the last finals with fewer seats.

Such lukewarm support contrasts vividly with the view from abroad. German newspaper Bild declared: "Glasgow showed they knew how to treat fans with an excellent reception in an excellent stadium." Die Welt added: "Both teams were adopted by the Scottish fans and the atmosphere was great – this was not the Britain of football hooliganism." Spain's El Mundo declared that "Heaven is Scottish", while Marca described Glasgow as "brimming with friendship".

Perhaps the banner hung alongside George Square – which was given over to both sets of fans for the day – begging Uefa to give Euro 2008 to Scotland and Ireland had a subliminal effect. Certainly, Simon Lyons, marketing director of the joint bid, believes that the goodwill might now measure up to the concrete evidence. Scotland already has Hampden, Ibrox (50,000 seats), Celtic Park (61,000) and Murrayfield (67,000) while new stadia are planned in Aberdeen, Dundee and Dublin.

"We were always confident Glasgow could deliver an occasion like the Champions' League final and it has done our bid for Euro 2008 a lot of good," Lyons said.

For one moment, the evening threatened to replicate Wembley '77 as Real fans swarmed on to the pitch and sat on the crossbar, after Zidane and company broke the rules by jumping the hoardings to show off the trophy. They were ushered, rather than beaten, back.

"It was irresponsible of the team," muttered Willie MacDougall, the SFA's head of security, "though understandable, given that they had just won the cup in their centenary year. But there are no cages or moats here and you hope that fans from abroad respect that."

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