This article appeared in the magazine “Focus: Scotland” – the magazine for volunteering and the third sector in Scotland.
It is reproduced here by their kind permission.
How others see us
My experience with the Tartan Army abroad
by Gareth Finn
The Tartan Army is one of Scotland’s greatest exports – we have watched them on television spreading the good name of Scotland with their good natured antics and impeccable behaviour that has received glowing reviews from every country that they have visited. So much so that the fans are almost better known than our footballers!
When labelled as the ‘Best fans in the World’ by other countries, it shows the impact that they have made and the long standing respect and friendship that they have created with the people of those countries. A World Cup is a very quiet tournament without the skirl of the pipes and the fun loving nature of the Tartan Army.
But away from the cameras and the generally held public view of the Tartan Army lies a compassion for others that is distinctively Scottish. In 2003 a group of Tartan Army members established the Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal to help ‘spread a little bit of sunshine wherever they go’.
Since 2003 they have given a donation to a local charity for disadvantaged and chronically ill children in each country that the Scotland National Team has visited –I believe they have not yet received the publicity and praise here in Scotland which they deserve despite them not expecting or striving for anything.
As a recent recruit to the Tartan Army I had the privilege of attending a ceremony in the Serbian city of Novi Sad where a cheque for £1500 was presented to a local orphanage called the SOS Kinderdorf “Dr Milorad Pavlovic – which is an international, non-governmental and non-denominational, child-focused organisation that provides services in the care, education and health of children who have already lost or are at risk of losing parental care
Suffice to say that it was a very emotional experience for all those who attended and there were tears in our eyes as the presentation was made.
In honour of the charity work carried out by the Sunshine Appeal a motion was submitted to the Scottish Parliament by Gil Paterson, SNP MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie, which praised the efforts of the organisation, paid tribute to their past donations and noted the donation that would be made in Serbia.
As a member of staff in Gil Paterson’s office I was entrusted with the responsibility of presenting the orphanage in Novi Sad with a framed copy of the motion which had received cross party support in our Parliament. I must admit that the event took a heavy toll on my nerves and I rather sheepishly asked the chairman of the Sunshine Appeal, John Daly, to present the framed motion which was gratefully accepted.
A visit by Scottish football fans would not be complete without a game of football and those of us present were challenged to a game by the orphans in conditions that polar bears would be best suited to playing in.
I am delighted to announce that at least one Scotland team won a game of football that day with us gaining a convincing 5-2 victory – in the long run it will be the orphans that will win and I am proud to have at least offered some help.
The smiles on the faces of the orphans are something that will live long with me and every time I remember that day a sense of pride builds up. Not only in the attitude that these children faced the world with but that the money donated, which in Scotland would be classed as small, was received with such gratitude that you know the money will be spent on something valuable and worthwhile.
The publicity generated in Serbia by the donation was something to behold with pictures of the ceremony adorning front pages of newspapers and appearing on news programmes whilst the images of kilted Scotland fans playing football in the snow with orphans would have brought a smile to even the most hardened of people.
Next up for the Scotland national team is a game against Croatia in Zagreb and as has been the case over the last 10 years the Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal will be presenting a donation to a local children’s charity. I hope to be there to witness again the gratitude and emotion which those receiving the donation express.
Regardless of the score in the football match, through the charity work of dedicated members of the Tartan Army, Scotland will win and another country will be able to add Scotland as a friend.