There’s always an added buzz in any sport when Scotland take on England, with the recent UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifier between the two sides at Tynecastle Park no exception. For one group of Scotland supporters, however, the occasion was even more special.
Thanks to the work of the Tartan Army Children’s Charity’s (TACC) ‘My First Scotland Match’ initiative, 14 children assisted by the family support group Circle were in the crowd for the fixture to cheer the team on as they took on the ‘Auld Enemy’ in Edinburgh.
The TACC programme sees the charity work together with the Scottish FA and Scotland Supporters’ Club, with each member of the group receiving a new Scotland shirt and Saltire in addition to their match ticket and £10 to spend.
Having initially been founded in 2008, the ‘My First Scotland Match’ programme has been a revelation across the country, with children supported by different groups each making the most of the opportunity provided by the TACC.
One of the most recent beneficiaries of the programme was the Glasgow-based Saturday Café Clubs group, who attended the recent men’s friendly match against Portugal at Hampden Park.
Also in attendance at the home of Scottish football for a recent men’s fixture were children from the Dumbarton Road Corridor Youth Project, who took in Scotland’s meeting with Belgium last month.
In addition to working with children from communities across Scotland, the TACC have also provided support to various children’s organisations around the world in the form of financial donations.
The most recent donation saw members of the TACC present a donation to Israeli children’s charity ‘GoBabyGo’, which modifies toy vehicles for children with mobility needs.
TACC chairman Derek Clark believes that the work done by the charity can not only benefit the next generation of football supporters, but can provide a real legacy for the Tartan Army.
"While travelling to follow the national team overseas, particularly to those newly independent states in Eastern Europe, it was evident that children in those areas were too often subjected to serious neglect, ill treatment and abuse," he said.
"Here at home, we increasingly found that similar degrees of disadvantage prevailed and we decided to give kids in this sort of situation a chance to experience what they never had, or were ever likely to – the atmosphere, passion and excitement of watching our national teams play.
"With luck and good fortune, they may even become the Tartan Army of the future."