Soccer-Cologne ready to welcome friendly Tartan Army invasion


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Fans in Glasgow gather for Germany v Scotland - Glasgow, Scotland, Britain - June 14, 2024 Scotland fans celebrate their first goal, an own goal scored by Germany's Antonio Rudiger REUTERS/Russell Cheyne/File Photo

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of kilt-wearing Scottish soccer fans will invade the German city of Cologne on Wednesday but local residents need not fear -- they come in peace.

The Tartan Army has been out in force since the start of Euro 2024, sinking industrial volumes of German beer and generally living up to the chant "no Scotland, no party".

Wednesday's Group A game against Switzerland will see the biggest coming together of the Tartan Army for years -- with an organised march to the stadium ahead of kickoff.

The Fan Walk, given the green light by Cologne's police, will begin from Josef-Lammerting-Allee at 1830 local time and follow a 1.7km route along closed roads to the stadium well in time for the 2100 kickoff.

As many as 60 bagpipers and drummers will lead the tartan procession along the route which organisers say is generally flat with temporary toilets provided -- an important consideration for those well-lubricated after a day of drinking.

"We'd ask supporters to be considerate of the residents on the route and make use of these please," a message read on the website of the Association of Tartan Army Clubs.

Scotland's Tartan Army, made up of hundreds of individual clubs throughout Scotland and across the world with names such Garden Shed Tartan Army and Burst Balloons Tartan Army, have been sadly absent from tournaments for the past two decades.

The national team have not appeared at the World Cup since 1998 and although they did qualify for Euro 2020, two of their games were in Glasgow and one at Wembley -- all three overshadowed by COVID-19 restrictions on fan numbers.

FITBA AND FUN

Which is why when Steve Clarke's team wrapped up qualification for the Germany showpiece with two games remaining, the kilts and sporrans could be packed and plans for a summer of "fitba, fun and beer" could begin.

Estimates vary, but as many as 250,000 Scots are said to have travelled to Germany, the majority without match tickets. And judging by the amount of kilts, saltires and Lion Rampants in evidence from Hamburg to Munich and all cities in between that might not by wide of the mark.

Things did not start well with Scotland hammered 5-1 by Germany in Munich, but the mood amongst the Tartan Army has remained joyous and they have proved a popular attraction with locals and fans of other nations.

While past tournaments have been marred by violence, Euro 2024 has so far been largely good-natured with the Tartan Army earning special praise from German police.

"Many thanks to the Scottish fans who created a special atmosphere over the last few days," a post on the Munich Police X page said after the opening game.

"Good luck and happy travelling."

One of the thousands, Dundee-born Dave Wright, who is travelling around Germany with his wife Michelle, said there was a code of behaviour amongst the Tartan Army.

"We self police, we look after each other and respect the places we go," Wright, who has been all over the world with the Tartan Army, told Reuters. "If people get too rowdy, other people have a word and if anyone is too drunk people will take them back to their hotel.

"So far it's been fantastic and the German people have been magnificent hosts who can't do enough for you. The only problem so far has been the football. We got demolished."

It is not all about football, beer and laughs, though.

The Tartan Army has won awards from UEFA for its fundraising work throughout the years. In Munich, the Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal announced its 101st donation, 5,000 pounds to Team Bananaflanke -- a German football project for children with learning and physical disabilities.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

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