THE STORY OF ONE TEAM IN TALINN, ESTONIA
The rumours had been flying about amongst the Tartan Army, the name given to the supporters of the Scottish national football team, since the evening before, while they were out soaking up the atmosphere and the alcohol around the centre of Talinn. Now, as the referee led the team out onto the pitch in the surrounds of the three-quarters empty Kadrioru Stadium, it was confirmed. In good spirits as always, no matter what the circumstances, someone began the chant: ‘One team in Talinn, There’s Only One Team in Talinn.’
The fiasco had started the evening before. Scotland had been allowed to train at the Kadrioru Stadium, where the World Cup qualifying match against Estonia was due to take place the following evening. During the training the team manager, Craig Brown and his senior staff and players became concerned that the floodlighting was inadequate to light the pitch properly. Subsequently they made an official complaint to the FIFA match delegate. FIFA in turn agreed to move the match the following day from an evening kick-off time to an earlier afternoon start, meaning the game could be played in daylight, without the need for the ineffective floodlights.
Estonia, the home team, were not happy. The floodlights had been used before without complaint. The early afternoon kick off time meant a loss in television revenue and logistical expenditure and re-planning. They refused to change their plans, while Scotland proceeded to work towards the amended schedule.
Sandy and Jimmy watched as referee Miroslav Radoman led out the Scotland team and lined up on the halfway line of the pitch. Where the Estonia team should have lined up alongside them there was only an empty space. Where the Estonian supporters should have been gathered in the stadium there were only empty seats.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ said Sandy to Jimmy, ‘Thirty years of watching football.’
The charade continued as the stadium announcer introduced the national anthem of Scotland, the familiar strains of ‘O’ Flower Of Scotland’ began to ring from the speakers. Sandy and Jimmy stood, arms folded across their chests, hands on hearts, and belted out the opening lines. Then the Estonian anthem was played and met with complete silence, apart from the well-oiled voice of the Tartan Army providing their own commentary on the surreal spectacle.
‘What now?,’ Jimmy asked as they watched on. The Scotland players broke away and did final warm ups as they took their positions on the field, facing an invisible opposition.
‘They’re acting as though this is normal,’ Sandy was bemused as Scotland captain John Collins met the referee in the centre circle and they went through the protocol of the coin toss. Being the only captain there, Collins won the toss and elected to kick-off the game.
‘If it wasn’t a lunchtime kick-off I’d swear I’d had too much to drink.’ Jimmy said.
The referee gave the ball to Collins, who placed it on the centre spot. Radoman checked his watch, blew his whistle and the game began. Forward Billy Dodds passed the ball to Collins, who took one touch before Radoman blew his whistle again to signal the end of the game. It had lasted three seconds.
Collins picked up the ball and handed it back to the referee. The players saluted the loyal fans and made their way off the pitch.
‘Does this mean we’ve won?’ Sandy asked Jimmy, who could only shrug in reply.
‘We’ll have a drink to celebrate anyway.’ And they headed back with the thousand or so other Scottish supporters to take advantage of the Estonian hospitality.
Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.
Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s Talinn in Estonia for a memorable football match for my home country Scotland – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.
Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.
For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.
To read more about this infamous, and rather amusing real-life story of the One Team in Talinn, click here: Wikipedia.