WC Countdown: Group D – Scotland

The next team in group D are the arch-rivals of EnglandScotland! They share the same wee island, but that’s about it. Since the dawn of time, England and Scotland have fought it out, on and off the football pitch, and as faith would have it they landed in the same group at the World Cup, which will make for a very exciting first game in group D.

The Scottish women’s national team and head coach Shelley Kerr has a very different squad at hand to the injury-plagued one that featured at the Euros 2017, where Scotland made an early exit after losing 0-6 to England and 1-2 to Portugal, and a 1-0 win against Spain could not save them. Their road to the World Cup in France worked out better than the Euros, but the Scots left it to the last game to secure qualification and did not make it easy for themselves. They won seven out of their eight games, but four out of those seven involved them fighting their way back from a losing position, and only on the last matchday it was confirmed that they finished above Switzerland in the group and qualified. Scotland then went to Portugal to play in the Algarve Cup in March, where they lost 0-1 to Canada, but won against Iceland 4-1 and against Denmark 1-0, in their preparations for the World Cup.

Looking at this Scottish team, there is undeniable talent in the squad. Just take young Erin Cuthbert, the 20-year-old who can’t stop scoring, for club and country. In her eighth games for Scotland in the qualification, she scored four goals, and she shares the top-scorer spot in the team with Jane Ross. Kim Little is another big name, and the creative midfielder has long been lauded s one of the best, but this will be the first time she gets to take her Scotland to a major tournament, as she was out injured for the Euros. In each of the last three qualifiers, she contributed with a vital goal, helping her team get a step closer to France. Lee Alexander is another emerging star between the goalposts, and the goalkeeper has managed to establish herself as the number one choice of coach Kerr.

Scotland women national team
Scotland WNT. Photo: Anders Henrikson

Something that has further helped develop the talent in the team, and allow them to focus on the football, is the financial help from the Scottish government, who went in with £80,00 of funding, which has enabled the squad to be full-time from January leading all the way up to the tournament in June.

“This announcement gives our home-based players an opportunity to train more, but also to rest more,” Kerr said to BBC Scotland.

“Some of them have to juggle full-time or part-time employment, or full-time education, as well as training with their clubs four or five times a week, on top of a strength and conditioning program as well.

“It is a big ask for those players who are not in a professional environment, and we need to make sure we support them as best we can. It is a huge weight off my shoulders and I know it is the same for the players.”

Midfielder Joanne Love, 32, who plays for Glasgow City is one of Scotland’s part-time players, who faces the struggle of balancing her day job with the demands of football.

“Particularly at my age, it’s getting a bit harder,” she said. “Some days I’m out the house for 12 hours between training in the morning, going to work then training at night.

“Elite athletes will tell you that you can’t go at 100mph all the time. Hopefully, I’ll find that balance and be top of my game come the World Cup.”

Shifting the focus over to Michelle “Shelley” Kerr. The former defender, who herself represented Scotland as a player, has previously managed teams such as Hibs and Arsenal on the women’s side, before becoming the first female manager in the UK to manage a men’s side when she took over Stirling University. The team constantly finished in the top five and she led them to the British Universities Championship final in 2014-15. In April 2017 she was appointed manager of the Scottish national team and have since led them to a historic first World Cup final.

Kerr is one for switching up the formations, and she’s had success with different ones. Her go-to choice seems to be the 4-2-3-1 but she is not afraid to switch it up and has also tried the 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 amongst others.

Scotland has a few games coming up, such as their game against Chile on the 5th of April 18:00 (UK time), they’re then going up against Brazil on the 8th of April, before welcoming Jamaica to Glasgow and Hampden Park on the 28th of May. The games will all be available on BBC Alba.

That concludes a little bit of insight on the Scottish squad. A lot of the buzz around this team will of course circulate around the England game, but they will also have to take on Argentina and Japan, two other big footballing nations. Do you think that the Scots can do it? Let us know in the comment section!

WC Countdown: Group C – Australia

We’re already onto group C in this World Cup countdown, and it is time for Australia!

The Matildas (whose nickname comes from an old Australian folk song) has been on the international scene for quite some time, having participated in all but one of the previous World Cups (they missed out on the inagural edition in China 1991), and they have steadily improved during the years. However, they’ve never been able to make it past the quarter-finals (which is still the furthest that any male or female Australian team has reached), a curse that they are now looking to break. They qualified after they defeated Thailand in the semifinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup (Australia moved from the Oceania Football Confederation to the Asian Football Federation in 2006 because they were fed up with Fifa not allowing Oceania an automatic qualifying spot at the time, and so they (at least the men’s side) perceived it to be easier to qualify via the Asian route), but lost 0-1 to Japan in the final. They drew 0-0 against South Korea, won 8-0 against Vietnam and drew 1-1 with Japan in the group games, before going up against Thailand in the semi-finals.

Sam Kerr is one of the biggest names in the Australian squad. The 25 year old, who was shortlisted for The Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2018, finished off the previous NWSL (the American league) and W-league (the Australian league) as top scorer, and she is a force to be reckoned with, having set a new record after scoring in seven consecutive Matildas games in 2017/18. She was also named captain by new head coach Ante Milicic, a role that she was very humbled to receive.

“It’s a massive honor,” Kerr said. “Milicic speaks in such a passionate way, it’s quite uplifting … it had me quite emotional when he asked me.”

Sam Kerr
Sam Kerr. Picture source: thewomensgame on Wikimedia

Kerr will be taking over the role from former co-captains Lisa De Vanna and Clare Polkinghorne. De Vanna has represented the Matildas since 2004 and captained the team at their last World Cup appereance in 2015. The 34 year-old is another attacking option with a lot of pace and great dribbling skills. Alanna Kennedy is only 24 years old, but has already represented Australia for years, and is nowadays a cornerstone in their defense. At the 2018 Asian Cup she scored two goals, one of them being the vital stoppage time equalizer against Thailand in the semi-final, that saw the game go to penalties, where Australia won. Chloe Logarzo and Emily van Egmond are two other strong players who are contributing on the midfield.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the Matildas on the coaching front, after Alen Stajcic was fired as head coach of the team in January, only five months before the World Cup. Although the exact reasons behind firing Stajcic remain unclear (the FFA claim that thiss is because of confidentiality) it is being said that there was a toxic team culture in the squad, and that the situation was unsustainable. The decision has come with a lot of controversy, and many players have spoken out against the sacking of Stajcic.

In his place, Ante Milicic has been named the interim coach to take over the team (with interim meaning that he is only temporarily in charge until a new head coach is appointed). Milicic is a former Australia international player and was a Socceroos (nickname for the men’s team) assistant under Ange Postecoglou, however he has never coached a women’s team. Former Australia captain Melissa Barbieri spoke out about the newly appointed coach, saying “I think it is fantastic that Ante (Milicic) has put his hand up to coach the Matildas.”

“He goes into this job unaware of how much he will fall in love with women’s football.”

It is as of yet unclear what kind of formation that Milicic will want to play, but at the 2018 Asian Cup the team tended to play some different formations, including a 3-4-2-1.

Milicic will get a chance to feel out his potential tactics and formations rather quickly, as the Australian side are hosting the Cup of Nations, with their first kick off against New Zealand on February 28th, a game which they won 2-0. They will also play South Korea on the 3rd of March and Argentina on the 6th of March. Then they have a friendly against USA scheduled on the 5th of April.

That is a little bit on the first team in group C! Australia are quite the heavy favourites to go pretty far in this tournament – do yous agree? Fire up the comment section! Also, give us your take on the appointment of yet another male coach who has never set foot in the women’s game before? Opinions may differ and I try to let my own feelings stay out of these World Cup Countdown pieces as much as possible, but my feelings do not match those of Barbieri regarding yet another male coach getting the go-ahead to coach a women’s team, never having coached a women’s team before in his life (he should not have to ‘fall in love with women’s football’ AFTER already having been appointed). I will write an opinion piece on the problematic issue that is unfortunately all too recurring.

WC Countdown: Group A – Norway

Third up in Group A is one of the most decorated and successful national teams in women’s football – Norway. The Scandis have a long and colourful history on the international scene, and it’s one of the national teams to have never failed to qualify for a World Cup.

Norway’s biggest feat to this day is their World Cup win in 1995. The tournament took place in their neighbouring country Sweden, and Norway cruised through the group stages, winning all three of their games, before beating a weak Denmark in the quarterfinals. They then got the USA in the semis, but an early goal from Ann Kristin Aarønes was enough to beat the Americans (who lost their first international tournament with this loss) and seal Norway’s spot in the finals, where they went up against Germany. Going into the game (with two Euro finals losses in the back) Norway were not the favourites, but two quick goals scored in succession helped Norwat beat the odds, and the Germans, to stand as world champions. Since then they’ve produced some mixed perfomances, winning the Olympics in Sydney 2000 and continuing to qualify for every World Cup, but not always showing up. One of the biggest disappointments of recent years is their surprisingly poor performance at the Euros 2017, to which they qualified without losing a game and being the highest ranked team in their group, but they lost all of their three games and did not manage to score a single goal in the tournament. They managed to make up for this to some extent by beating reigning Euro champions the Netherlands 2-1 in their final group game for the World Cup qualification, topping their group and automatically qualifying for the tournament.

Norway national team
The Norwegian team celebrating with a selfie

There are a few consistent names that show up in Norway’s squad, like the veteran goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth, 38 years old, who’s been dependable between the sticks throughout Norway’s WC qualification. Captain Maren Mjelde is another household name, who’s been playing for the national team for more than a decade and is classified as the heart and soul of the team. With her flexible set of skills she can feature in the central defence, play as a defensive midfielder or as a playmaker and brings a lot to the team. The likes of Maria Thorisdottir, Lisa-Marie Utland and Isabel Herlovsen are other important names that have contributed a great deal to the national side.

Then we have the case of Ada Hegerberg, the 23 year-old striker and inagural winner of the Ballon d’Or (for women, because yes before 2018 only men received the award…) who, by most people, is considered to be the best female football player in the world right now, also happens to be Norwegian, but won’t be playing at the World Cup this summer. After Norway’s bleak Euro 2017 performance, she announced that she was not going to return to the national team because she was not happy with the way that the Norwegian Football Federation was treating women’s football in the country.

“Obviously, I’d love to play for my country,” she says.

“I’ve been quite critical, direct with the federation [about] what I felt hasn’t been good enough in my career in the national team.

“It’s not always about the money. It’s about preparing, taking action, professionality, really clear points I’ve put quite directly to them when I made the decision.”

“I know what I want and know my values and therefore it’s easy to take hard choices when you know what the ambitions are and what values you stand for, so it’s all about staying true to yourself, be yourself” Hegerberg explained.

Ada Hegerberg NorwayOn the international scene she is considered one of the best strikers in the world – it’s more than likely she’ll surpass 300 career goals in 2019, at 23 years old, and her scoring rate is better than both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – but back home in Norway, the football federation seem to have a completely different view of her and they’ve made her out to be a prima donna, difficult to work with, saying that she wanted priviliges and coach Martin Sjögren claims that she doesn’t share the “values” of the team, which Hegerberg strongly refutes.

“I expect if people have had a problem with me or my attitude, then they come and take it directly with me, face to face. No one has done that, and then I expect that is what is the reality,” Hegerberg said in 2017, on the scarce occasion she commented on the situation.

It’s not possible to go into this situation and start saying who is right and who is wrong, there is simply the information that the media and the parties themselves have put out there. But this story made me think about another really great football player living in a country plagued by something called “The Law of Jante” – which basically means that society does not want individuals to believe themselves to be above the collective – who, as it happens, was also a striker, banging in lots of goals, and was often likened with being a ‘prima donna’, but in his case he was accommodated to, rather than forced out. I’m not saying these two situations are exactly the same, or even close, but some things stand out and correlations can be made. You can go in and read my text about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Swedish men’s national team here.

Looking at how the team plays, the Swedish manager Sjögren tends to choose a very straightforward 4-4-2 approach, often employing his versetile captain Mjelde in the heart of the defense. Sjögren had a tough task in front of him when he took over in 2016 after legendary manager Even Pellerud, who led the team to World Cup glory in 1995, but after a disappointing Euro 2017 campaign he managed to lead them to the top of the qualification group. Norway has two friendlies coming up against Scotland and Canada, on the 17 and 21 of January, in La Manga in Spain, but other than that, their calender is looking quite empty at the moment.

Will Norway be able to repeat their feat of the 1995 World Cup without their star striker? Is it irrelevant? Get discussing in the comments below!

Meet The Founder Of Ladies Recreational Football

This post was originally meant to come up on Monday, but as anyone who follows me on Instagram might have noticed, I broke my thumb during football practice a week ago and had to have surgery on Tuesday. This has greatly decreased my ability to write and, to be honest, the first few days I’ve just been taking it easy and enjoyed being taken care of. But now I’m here! Arm in a cast but otherwise good.

This time I’ve been chatting with Kirsten Sinclair. She is the founder of Ladies Recreational Football, a club that gets together on Tuesday evenings (19:00-20:00) at Glasgow Green, where they play football and enjoy the company. They also organise other events, for example they’ll be hosting a 5 a side football tournament on June 9 with an event at the Women’s Library afterwards. For more information, check out their Facebook page! So make sure to save the date for a Saturday full of football and fun.

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– How did the Ladies Recreational Football start?

Kirsten: Probably about 2009, I was in Edinburgh with a group of friends. We were just having a kick about in the park, it was coming up to winter and they said ‘oh, we’re just gonna have to wait now until spring’ and I said ‘well, that’s a shame. Why don’t we try and get like a sports centre’ but the trouble with that is, you wouldn’t get the same numbers every week. So, at the time, I was in touch with LGBT health and they had some funding, so I asked them if it was possible to set up a women’s recreational football group in Edinburgh, to begin with. So they gave us some funding, just to pay for a pitch for a couple of months, and then I applied towards for all. We managed to get a grant that kept it going. So that’s the Amazing Gracies in Edinburgh. I was with them for about three years and then I got the chance to go and work in Australia, so I left the Gracies.

But when I came back, I thought ‘I wonder if there’s something in Glasgow’ and I couldn’t find anything apart from United Glasgow and I thought that, I know they’ve got the drop in, it still seemed to be geared towards putting people towards a league side, and I thought ‘there’s maybe still a gap for people that just are a bit less confident’ so that was really the reason for setting up this recreational football. So in July [last year] I did a survey and people said yes, I must’ve had about 40 people saying that they would be up for it, and I just asked them where they would like to play. And that was it! So I booked it, promoted it like mad, and LEAP Sports were brilliant with the promotion as well as the Women’s library and the libraries, I just went around and did leaflets and a Facebook campaign. On the first night, we were really lucky because 14 folks came along, and it’s been going since! So we just gradually tried to, try the Thursday night, try Sundays, try to get friendlies, keep in touch with United Glasgow for any friendlies with them and tournaments. It has just been great, it’s a lovely group of women and it’s just a laugh, that’s the main thing about it. It takes the emphasis away from having any kind of competitive ability, it’s just about coming out and having a bit of fun. Then if you want you can come for a coffee or a pint after it.

– And you have walking football as well?

K: That’s right. Walking football I do in Edinburgh at the moment and I’ve been trying to get the numbers for it in Glasgow but without success. I just keep offering it and maybe more women will come. I’m doing a tournament on the 9th of June at Glasgow Green, with start 12pm, and again it’s just to try and get people along that might be thinking about walking football or ordinary football, and trying to give them a taste of them both, so maybe we can get a few more folks up for it.

It has just been great, it’s a lovely group of women and it’s just a laugh, that’s the main thing about it

Picture-What drives you? What made you take that initiative to start the club?

K: That’s a really good question … because I used to love football when I was wee, and I was lucky having a brother, because I used to play with my brother. And we didn’t really have the opportunities for girls and women playing football at school and hardly any clubs. If you did join a club you had to make a commitment, and you had to be a certain level – and I just love playing! And I thought – remember that kick about in the park, it was the first time I’d had a kick about for years, and I just thought that there must be more that would enjoy that. I just loved it, and when the Grace’s took off and there was the chance to try it here in Glasgow I just thought ‘I’ll see’ and it’s just great playing it again. So I think it’s a bit of both it’s just loving playing football, and seeing folk coming out that are not very confident, and they’ve all got a talent. That’s the main thing about it.

– How has the response been?

K: There’s been a couple of comments about how it’s really really good, mental health-wise because, especially for people that might’ve had a rotten day at work, because they find it all absorbing, they can only concentrate for that hour on football and it’s enough to give them a break, from maybe a bad day at work. But it’s also, people have said, it’s been lovely to come out and have a game, have something in common with people straight away, and then gradually get to know them over the weeks, playing in a team. That’s been the good thing of the friendlies and the tournaments, just making friends and being on the social side.

– What kind of people is it that shows up to the practice?

K: All kinds! All ages, we’ve had Liz, that played tonight, her daughters came along, they were about 18 at the time. We’ve had another woman whose mum played! She’s about 65 years old and she had a brilliant game I saw. All ages, we see, there’s a bunch of regulars but it’s good because you get new faces too and it’s lovely to see new folks coming along. United Glasgow have been great with the drop in because I think some folks have been coming from there when they can. It’s just great if we can give people the opportunity to come and play football, that’s really good.

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– What’s the atmosphere like?

K: I would say it’s really fun, because Sirri from LEAP Sports came to do an interview too and just to take some film footage, and while she was doing it, she said ‘you are the only pitch where people are just laughing!’. She could hear the guys around the boot and they were all quite serious, but she said it’s really nice just seeing people just killing themselves laughing, so it’s good.

– Do you feel that it fills a need for the people showing up?

K: Yeah, I think it’s important for me to have an inclusive, friendly environment. For somebody brave enough to come along for the first time, many people would take it for granted, that they would just do that, they would show up and they would go. For other people I think it’s quite a tough thing to do, so it was really important from the word go just to make them feel welcome and hopefully that’s what the club does. If you identify as a woman, you’re more than welcome to come along whenever you can.

– What does football give you?

(silence)

K: I think I’d have to say a big smile, because every time I come along and I may be tired or fed up,  I always come away smiling, feeling a bit better than when I started. That’s the social side, definitely.

Meet The Co-Founder Of Proud Huddle Celtic Supporter Club

We’re back with another interview for the Glasgow Series! This time we’ll delve deeper into Lindsay Hamilton’s involvement with the founding of Proud Huddle CSC, Celtics first and only LGBT supporter club. We will cover everything, from how it all got started with a mysterious email to the importance of visibility and how the supporters club has been taken on by other supporters. Lindsay also has her own website and blog – check it out!

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– When was Proud Huddle CSC founded and how did it come about?

L: The first meeting we had was in January 2018, and it was a bit random how it all got started. I basically got sent – not an anonymous email but – an email to which I was like ‘what the hell is this?’, straight to my email account, but to multiple people, maybe eight people in the original email list. It was really brief: ‘Hi there, just getting in touch to see if you would be interested to start up an LGBT supporters club for Celtic?’. The name of the sender was Sirri Topping from LEAP Sports and I know Sirri very, very well.

I’ll be honest, right, and I’ve said this to the guys, I told them at the meeting ‘do we really need this [LGBT supporters group]?’ And I know that’s really odd to hear from a founding member, but I’ve never – I’ve had one instant my whole time that I’ve felt unsafe, not unsafe but a bit funny feeling, along the lines of ‘ugh I don’t like this’. We all eventually met up at LEAP Sports and we all sort of gave our own experiences and no one felt really threatened or offended or anything, so I think the whole point of the group – what my conclusion is of why we have to set up is just purely visibility. There was a campaign, Glasgow City brought it about, I don’t know if it was last year or the season before. They launched their own campaign, I think they had in on the back of their shirts, and it said ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and they were basically fighting against the fact that they don’t get media coverage or not as much as they should and they could get. I took this to the meeting and that was my idea like ‘you know what, I’ve never felt unsafe or unwelcome in anything to do with Celtic, that’s my honest to God opinion, but you can’t be what you can’t see’.

How crackin’ would it be if we did have a section or something and a young kid is seeing a rainbow flag flying and they would know that it’s alright. That’s how I felt. Last year I went to my first pride march with United Glasgow and on that day we [Celtic] played Kilmarnock, so me and Steph missed the fucking game (laughter) cause we both went to this march. We came to Merchant City after the march and we walked to a pub and me and Steph were doing the ‘who scored?’ (laugh) and the game was at Kilmarnock that day, at Rugby Park, the day of Glasgow’s pride march, and the Celtic supporters flew a rainbow flag and had a big banner with a rainbow flag that said ‘a club open to all’, one of the club’s motto’s sort of thing and I was nearly sitting in tears, like ‘oh my god this is brilliant’ and not just because it’s my club but because it’s a football club.

I was so inspired, thinking how that’s really touching. That’s why, when we got sent the email, I thought ‘do we need it?’ There’s acceptance on the stands. Otherwise, that banner would’ve not been there, at an away game as well. And I think we all just came to the conclusion we don’t feel unsafe or unwelcome or anything like that. It’s just about visibility. If I, when I was younger, had known there was an LGBT Celtic supporters club, not even joining it, just to know that it was there, I would’ve been more relaxed and at ease. I think that’s what it’s all about. If we can manage to make people feel a little more comfortable that’s a win, 100%.

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Proud Huddle has given me a tribe, a group of people that I can relate to. We’re all Celtic mad, but we also align to this LGBT stuff and we can all understand one another. It’s so nice to have Proud Huddle, which is everybody – you don’t have to be LGBT to join, of course – it’s just nice to know that that group is there and that’s what it’s for specifically. I wrote an article for LEAP sports, sort of like a press release for the group, and I’ll never top this bit of writing so I’ll just repeat it again (laughter). The way I described it was the meeting was basically just like-minded strangers becoming friends – something along those lines. We were literally all strangers that got emailed an anonymous email at the same time and I was like ‘what, why have I been chosen for this’ and we are all different ages and genders, sexualities, different work, it’s just nice, like-minded people becoming pals. That’s all it is and if that’s all there will ever be I will be pretty pleased.

– What is the group doing to reach out to people and let everyone know that you exist?

L: That’s what we’re working on just now. We do have a large following on Facebook, which I never really checked until the other night. I think we have a 170 odd folk, which I thought was mad. In a couple of weeks time, we’re hoping to have a meeting with Celtic supporter liaison officer, his name is John Paul Taylor. I had to write our constitution first and then we’ll sit with him and we’re going to be quite demanding and say how can you help us, how can you get us out there, what can the club do? And what can we do? Because, I don’t know if every Scottish team has, I don’t think they have, but there’s a Scottish LGBT charter, that the clubs have signed up to. Both Celtic and Rangers have signed up to it, Partick Thistle as well. LEAP sports, who put us all together, are doing a Festival Fortnight in June and we’ve been asked to come up with some events. So we’re hoping to do a quiz, and in that way, we can hopefully reach out to people. In terms of promotion things that’s like all the stuff that’s coming up this year.

… there’s a fine line between just tolerance towards someone else and acceptance, and that is a difference

​- What has the reception for the supporters group been like?L: It’s been good! 16 people came to our first meeting in the pub, as we were watching our first game together. I thought no one would show up but then all these people started bursting through the door and I was like ‘fuck guys, what have we done!’ (laughter). We’ve actually created something here! The reception for the first night was great, and people were so pleased that we came up with this.

I think we are a very accepting group of fans, and I don’t mean that to be bias, I think that’s just the nature of the club, that’s the way it’s always been, that the motto, it’s ‘a club open to all’ that’s just the way it is, and if you’re not like that, fuck off. That’s legit how I’ve heard many a Celtic fan talk but I think there’s a fine line with that motto between just tolerance towards someone else and acceptance, and that is a difference. I think that’s as well the path we’re trying to get people to cross. I wrote specifically in our constitution that we are not a club about tolerance, rather this is about acceptance. Because I’m fed up with people just being – they wouldn’t do you any harm, talking about sexuality, race, gender, but a lot of people have an attitude of ‘just don’t bother with them, it’s fine’.

In terms of the reception, there are three main things – first, the people who turned up to the meeting and were really positive about it. One thing that stuck in my mind was ‘there’s a space for me, there’s a place that I can go’, they just kept saying thank you. Secondly, there was some negative response on fan forums and social media but it was more questioning ‘why is this needed?’. Thirdly, there’s the clubs association with the Catholicism. That’s one thing that I’m still a bit ‘could this come up in conversation?’. Not from the club directly maybe, but certainly by supporters. I would hope that it wouldn’t, but when you think about it – would that come into someone’s mind? Would that be part of the club’s nature to be – not not supporters but maybe keep it a bit at an arm’s length? Or keep it a bit under the radar, you know what I mean? I couldn’t tell you what the reception is, because I haven’t had that dialogue yet.

If you are interested to get involved with Proud Huddle in anyway or just like to get in contact with them, they can be reached via email at proudhuddlecsc@outlook.com. They have a Facebook page called Proud Huddle C.S.C as well as a Twitter under the handle @CelticCSCPride. Follow them there to make sure not to miss any of the upcoming events!

Meet Lindsay Hamilton

Blog7The Glasgow Series are back! Two Mondays every month there will (hopefully) be a new interview out, and this time I’ve had the chance to talk to Lindsay Hamilton, a team mate of mine in United Glasgow. Lindsay is a devoted Celtic supporter and a writer, with a lot of strings to her bow. She was one of the founding members of Proud Huddle CSC, which is the first and only LGBTQI+ Celtic Football Club supporters group, and is also in the progress of launching her own football tour business. In this first interview we’ll talk about her relationship to football and in the second interview, coming out on Thursday 17/5 we’ll dig deeper into her work with Proud Huddle.

-How did you get into football?

Lindsay: Exactly the same way as any of my male friends. There was the whole family of us, my dad, my uncle, my brother, my cousin and my auntie. I don’t remember my first game, it pains me to this day that I don’t remember it, I don’t know who they were playing, but it was brilliant and yeah, I just kept going from then.

-How old where you, more or less?

L: I think I was seven for my first game, and started to go on a regular basis when I was eight, like going every week. Because in that time it was paper tickets, old season books that we had. You just ripped a ticket out and you could give it to someone, so my dad who is a bus driver used to get the crappy shifts and missed quite a lot of games, so he just ripped his ticket out, gave it to me, then my auntie and uncle would take me to the games, and I – kid you not – I’m small now but I was really small then and they used to sit me on their lap because they didn’t want me to sit on my own, so I just sat there on their knees, just pure crushed over watching the game.

I don’t know when I got my season ticket, I would guess 14, but I actually don’t know – but I was on the waiting list for a lifetime to get an actual ticket (laugh). But bear in mind, when I just started going, Henrik Larsson was still there, we got to the UEFA cup, so everybody were going to these games. And then there was a point where Scottish football kind of plateaued a little bit, it was all when TV started taking over – this is a pure tangent – but TV came in, and all the games started changing times and all this, it just wasn’t part of a routine anymore, you had to change your whole routine about football, and it just didn’t work, so that’s when a lot of people were saying that they couldn’t keep their season ticket on because they were going to miss x amount of games this season, because they’re all getting moved around for the TV, so that was my chance to scoop in.

-How has being a season ticket holder ‘helped’ you in your fandom, so to say? Being able to actually, physically see them week in and week out.

L: Yeah it’s just being there, innit? That’s what it’s all about. You can say you were there when Callum McGregor scored the goal against Zenit or one of the moments stuck in my head like I was there the night Nakamura scored a free kick against Manchester United, it’s just all the wee moments, I was there for that. That’s what it’s all about and that’s how you connect, it doesn’t matter what age they are, what gender they are or what sexuality they are. If you’re a Celtic fan that’s how you connect, if you’re a whatever-fan, that’s your little stories about your club, that keep everyone talking. It’s just how it works. I think that’s what it gave me, it’s just like I was there, and I was always there. People start know your face and when I wasn’t there they would be ‘where’s the wee lassie?’. That was it. They don’t know my name – I don’t know their name, but that’s not the point. I still sit in Parkhead now and the only guy I know next to me, his name’s John, and that’s it. But I know everyone else’s faces and I talk to them. I don’t know their name but I don’t need to. The whole point is that we’re there for one reason – because we want Celtic to win (laughter).

I went to Boston, came back in November, and I honestly think that United Glasgow brought me back

​-How was it growing up in a sports crazy family?L: Busy! There was a reason my parents needed two cars in the house. My brother went and did karate and I was just football daft. I just always wanted to play. I remember watching my dad, that’s where it came from. Every Friday night he plays 5 a side – he’s 54 or something and he still plays, that’s mental! But that will be me at 54, I would put my money on that. Even my nana, she played bowls and I used to go and watch her as well. She used to take me to nursery and afterwards she played bowls in the chapel hall. They were a group of young pensioners and sometimes they’d let me throw a ball and I thought it was brilliant. My mum just used to run a lot, and she used to do the daft fitness videos that every mom did.

-How do you think that has affected your career choice, seeing as you work at the Scottish Football Museum now and working on getting your football tour business on its feet?

L: I don’t know man, because I think I’ve always loved sports, I don’t know where it came from.

-But why turn it into a career? It’s a big step from just a hobby.

L: True, I’ve never thought about that. I think that goes into another part of my family life which is that we’re very working class, but we’re not, because of my mum. She’s a grafter. She worked in an office from a young age and worked her way up, it’s a pure rags to riches story – she’s now manager of that department. That woman is my aim in life. I do want to make money for myself but I couldn’t just work for money and I think that’s where sport comes into it. The businesses that I’m trying to do now, it’s not about the money. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a benefit, but I’m doing it because it’s something I enjoy. I’m not doing anything in this life, unless I enjoy it. It’s gonna be short and sweet, that’s how life is, I won’t be doing something that I don’t like.

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-How did you get involved with United Glasgow?L: It all started before I went to work in Boston – I was coaching over there – for a few months in 2016. I remember that I saw something on my Facebook about this football club, and I just thought it was brilliant. I immediately was like ‘fuck yeah’. They were looking for a monthly donation and I was just ‘take my money, that’s fine’. I was a student at the time, had no money but I was okay with that. It was something like a fiver a month, not that much, and I just thought it was really cool, it’s on my doorstep, I 100% align with and support this. So I started giving them donation long before I ever met anyone at the club or had been to any training session.

Then I went to Boston, came back in November, and I honestly think that United Glasgow brought me back, and that’s really fucked up when I think about it. I did enjoy the job I was doing in Boston and I didn’t, because I was coaching, which is always fun, it was good, but the hours I was doing was ridiculous. I’m not lazy, I don’t mind working, but for the amount of money I got from it, for those hours … I was like ‘you know what, great experience for four months but I’m going home!’. So there was definitely that part of it as well, I was always coming home, but United Glasgow gave me something to come home to. That’s the honest to God truth, and I had never even been to the club before!

I went to the drop in on Monday night, after not having played football for four years, and I just thought ‘fuck, this feels so good’ and it was instant, I just caught a bug.

-Do you follow any women’s football?

L: I don’t. It’s something that I really should try. I do feel bad. I watched the first half of the Scotland game [against Switzerland], then I had to go to training, it was pretty brutal and they lost. But it wasn’t the best performance either. I don’t watch it as much because the women’s game just gets the worst time for things. See if they’re abroad, I can be in the office sometimes for those games at like noon, how’s anyone supposed to support that? But I’ll consciously go and check the results and I check who gets into the various teams as well because I used to coach for Celtic as well in the women’s team and some of the youngsters I used to coach are now playing in the U19’s and I’m mind blown!

That Time Fortuna Dusseldorf Took My German Football Virginity

When I first landed in Dusseldorf, Germany, as a freshly graduated and introvert 19-year-old with a limited German vocabulary, I was equal parts excited and scared. Excited because this was the adventure that I had been dreaming of and longing for, and scared because it was so far out of my comfort zone. But, as I’ve come to realise is a common thread in my life, football was the solution. Anyone that’s been in Germany knows that they are quite mad about their football, and I fell head over heels with their devotion for the game. I also arrived very timely and got to catch the last days and games of the World Cup 2014, which of course involved Germany winning the whole thing (this is a story for another time but wow, that was an experience!). As you can imagine, there was lots of good football talk to be had there.

But even after the bewilderment of the World Cup had died down a little bit, there was football to indulge in. The team of the city is called Fortuna Dusseldorf  and as it happened, they were to inaugurate the 2.Bundesliga with the first kick off of the season, on 1 August and they got to welcome Braunschweig to Esprit Arena. The game in itself was good with goals left and right and the German football is appealing (to me at least), charging on like well oiled machines, but to be honest I do not remember anything about the game itself – that ended 2-2 for anyone interested. Instead what it left me with is the memory of what it felt like in the stadium.

We all have that team that introduced us to a specific type of football or to the excellence of a player or coach (or am I making assumptions now that are only based on my own experiences? Please let me know in the comments and save me from making more silly non-fact-based assumptions!). I had been watching Hamburg SV for years before moving to Germany (another good story of how I followed Rafael Van Der Vaart to Germany – that man is guilty of getting me into a lot of things in my life) but that Fortuna game was the first one that I saw live. That was where I had my first experience of German football support and how grandiose it is. Or what to you say about 41.000 spectators at a 2.Bundesliga game?

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I will always remember that feeling of running around in the stadium, trying to find our places whilst squeezing past people spilling beer on us and forcing my friend to run and get another beer, only for it to splash out as we celebrated another goal. How everything was so loud around us, and felt so close, yet the stadium was huge. There was such a buzz all around, a buzz I was familiar with by then, having followed my division 1 team back in Sweden on a few occasions. It is a kind of buzz that transcends language barriers and does not have a country code – football is understood by everyone and can communicate through it.

We returned to the stadium a month or two later for a second game and were not disappointed. What welcomed us was once again a huge wall of supporters up and down every side of the stadium, singing their hearts out with scarfs being held up as a sign of allegiance and with everything drenched in red and white. The football was at times scrappy and some misogynist fans in the stands you can’t just erase on the spot but the German football and its enormous fan culture certainly made a big impression on me. I’ve been to several games since then, mainly FC Köln and Borussia Mönchengladbach, and it’s always had that buzz.

I am so happy to see that Fortuna Dusseldorf now are back in the topflight and although it is a sad seeing Cologne (where I lived for the following two years after my Dusseldorf experience) being relegated from the Bundesliga, we can all find some comfort in the fact that several players, among them Timo Horn – that has been linked with several big clubs around Europe – just signed an extension until 2023, and will follow the club down to 2.Bundesliga. Here you can read more about the passionate goalkeeper.