Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Scots still waiting to catch World Cup fever

Another lazy post from me. Here's something of interest from RugbyHeavenNZ (sorry about the breach of copyright...):

A huge set of red goalposts adorns a traffic island outside Edinburgh Airport. But the local Scots are probably still wondering why they are H-shaped and why they're not being guarded by a tall, reed-thin lad with rubber gloves on his hands.

Welcome to bonnie Scotland, host of the Clayton's World Cup – the World Cup you're having when the main action is elsewhere.

Mention "sport" in the Scottish capital yesterday and most folk's thoughts turned to late, great rally driver Colin McRae, who perished with his five-year-old son in a helicopter accident at the weekend.

McRae, for whom the term "affable Scot" was invented, judging by the outpouring of grief and tributes from throughout the motor sport world, was one of Scotland's few world sporting champions. Thus his tragic death at 38 dominates the front pages and broadcasting bulletins.
Edinburgh is a city accustomed to tourists. Most people know the Rugby Thingamajig is on – or at least they know someone who read about it in the small print in the Edinburgh Evening News.

But the Tartan Army aren't exactly bracing themselves for an All Blacks invasion. Black-and-white-clad visitors with painted faces barely raise a ripple of interest in a town where men wear ginger wigs and dresses to Murrayfield.

Talk "footy" to a Scot, and they'll automatically assume you're referring to their local Edinburgh teams, Heart of Midlothian (Hearts) or Hibernian (Hibs). Hearts fans are still hailing their team's 4-2 win over Glasgow Rangers - its biggest victory in 70-plus years over the blue half of Scotland's Old Firm.

Ask someone if they watched the big match in France, they'll go "aye – what a braw goal by James McFadden".

The Scottish football team's 1-0 win over former World Cup and European champion France is still being dissected while Scotland's 56-10 Rugby World Cup romp over Portugal was being forgotten as soon as it had ended.

Murrayfield – capacity 67,000 – should be close to full for the All Blacks match, due in no small measure to the number of New Zealand rugby fans making their quadrennial World Cup pilgrimage, and the sizeable expatriate Kiwi community resident in Britain.

Rugby insiders here will be sweating over crowd sizes. Murrayfield had plenty of empty seats when the 1999 World Cup was pepper-potted around the British Isles. Respected rugby writer David Ferguson, confidently predicted in his blog on The Scotsman's website that things would be different this time. He believed the visit of Romania would attract 30,000 and the All Blacks would play before a capacity crowd.

Now we have no intention of perpetuating the cruel and unfair stereotype of Scots being reluctant to dip into their own sporrans lest they disturb any winged insects dwelling there.

But, if you were a Scots supporter, knowing your team had never beaten the All Blacks, would you be so keen to cough up between £38 ($NZ107) and £164 ($NZ463) for a ticket to Monday's match?

That's a lot of loot – especially if Scotland fields a B team to save key players for the must-win match against Italy which will determine the second quarter-final qualifier.

Far better to be at the Scotland-Romania match this morning for two glaring reasons: One: Scotland should win, and Two: seats range from £13 ($NZ36) to £43 ($NZ121).

The fact Scotland is hosting two World Cup matches at all is an anachronism based on the Scottish Rugby Union's support six years ago for France as host of the 2007 tournament.

Cardiff was also allocated three pool matches and a quarter-final, which some might say "fair dos" because the Welsh are rugby-daft and the central city Millennium Stadium is one of rugby's great venues.

However, there is an important principal at stake here. Co-hosting should never be allowed to happen again. Keep the World Cup contained in one country. It makes for a much more successful tournament.

World Cup fever is approaching epidemic status in France. It is merely a mild, isolated contagion here.


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