Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Dundee FC's triumph is a stroll in the park but not for a lachrymose Arab taxi driver

My wife and I were up in Dundee recently to go to Dens Park to watch the famous eleven defeat Dumbarton in front of almost 11,000 fans and so win the Scottish Football League Championship and gain promotion to the Scottish Premier League.

The match went well. We defeated Dumbarton 2-1. Before the game, following a stramash about which seats we could and could not sit in, we were eventually located in the section of the main stand near to where the Dumbarton supporters were gallantly and sometimes quite effectively singing for their team. As most readers will know goals from Christian Nade and Peter Macdonald put us 2-0 up by half-time and even when Dumbarton scored from a penalty mid-way through the second half to make the score 2-1,  I had no worries. We'd win the league even if the match was a draw because our goal difference was 8 better than Hamilton's.  So when the final whistle blew I felt the joy of our winning both the match and the league but in truth it was no more than I had anticipated. I had never countenanced us being defeated. If we had been all would have been lost.

It was a happy ending and Paul Hartley and his team had triumphed  We watched the after-match celebrations. The man on the loudspeaker told the more enthusiastic members of the crowd that they could not go for a stroll in the park. I have to report they ignored him and did go walking in the park. After several more frantic beseechings from the man on the loudspeaker, they returned to their homes in the stands to watch the trophy presentation.  Under a shower of ticker tape, on the stage which had been rapidly assembled in the centre circle, the Dundee players were presented with their medals. Gavin Rae stepped up to receive the gleaming championship cup and a great roar rose from the crowd as he held the  trophy aloft and the team all began to bounce up and down in unison which now seems to be something that is programmed into all modern football players who win trophies. This was a a signal for those exuberant fans to take another promenade on the park despite more threats from the man on the public address system who implied that Armageddon would unfold before our very eyes -  to the extent that the players' lap of honour would have to be cancelled  - if the more enthusiastic members of our flock did not retreat from their happy pastures. Give the man on the tannoy his due, within a minute the excitable but happy lambs had returned to the safety of their folds and the lap of honour took place.

On leaving the ground, we looked for a taxi but none was to be found and my wife's mini iPad which she'd used to take photies of the celebratory scenes was useless for contacting a cab and I, with my usual efficiency, had left my mobile 'phone behind at our hotel. A kind man overhearing our anxious discussion about our lack of a telephone, called a taxi company for us. A few minutes later we were pleased when a cab arrived for us at the junction of Tannadice Street and Arklay Street. We told the pilot we were going to the Queens Hotel. He nodded and we hopped in. The driver, who was listening to an English Premier League match on his radio, seemed miserable almost to the point that you would guess he was crabbit.  I decided there and then he was an Arab. Who else could look so unhappy immediately after a Dundee victory ?  If indeed he was an Arab, then sadly  -  and there's only a wee touch of disingenuousness in my sadness  -   a couple of weeks later he'd have a greater reason to feel as scunnered as he seemed by Dundee winning the championship.  It was a shame about United's defeat in the cup final.

"Well, ye've done it." he said lugubriously. I could see it was hurting him to say it.

"Och," I said, "it was a walk in the park,"  -  there's that walk in the park again  -   "easy-peasy even if we'd drawn we'd have been up. Our goal difference was a way better than Hamilton's."

Dundee supporters take an after match stroll in the park

"Naw, ye widna  ha'e won," said the cab driver bitterly. Was that a hint of a tear in his eye I could see?  He continued,  "Hamilton beat Morton 10-2 and they'd have gone up if ye'd drawn. The goal difference was the same, the points wid've  been the same so they'd ha'e won the league because they'd scored mair goals than youse."

I couldn't take in what he said for a few seconds. All through the match I'd been in blithe ignorance of the farce going on at Hamilton.  Nobody near us in the crowd had seemed aware of it either and yet most of them, unlike me, had their mobile 'phones with them. I'm sure they would have been texting friends or keeping up with live text commentary of the Hamilton-Morton match.  Perhaps, like me they had taken Dundee's triumph as a given, or they had known and my antennae hadn't picked it up. In any case I was surprised to find that rather than being relieved not to have known how perilous Dundee's situation was, I resented not having experienced the heart-wrenching and excruciating tension that many of the spectators, I later learnt,  had experienced.  Calm, it appears, is less attractive to me than the tempest. It's a funny thing the human mind, well, the one I've got seems to be.

To be sure I never did find out if he was an Arab (though that "youse" said a lot) but we were grateful to our lachrymose cab driver for driving us through the traffic and crowds after the match.  He didn't need to come to our rescue and we didn't see any other taxis about. He dropped us off outside the Queens Hotel and we paid him our fare together with a healthy monetary consideration in gratitude for the trouble he had taken on our behalf. He thanked us and though I think he tried to, he just couldn't seem to raise a smile.

Just to let you know, for the time being I'm putting aside my paranoid thoughts about how the result between Accies and Morton came about. I am as genuinely sorry for Dundee United as I am pleased for St. Johnstone. I am ecstatic about Dundee's  ascension. In another sense it was a personal triumph for me. It was the first time after many years of trying that I had persuaded my wife to go through the portal of Dens Park. I used to think she was a secret Norwich City fan with a touch of Watford in there as well but I have been instructed after writing this to make it clear that she supports Watford and Torquay United. Still,  she said she liked her visit and, at the end, there she was singing with the best of them, "Nini mini mini mini ninina, Dundee's going up, going up, Dundee's going up!"

In Dundee, the term Arab describes players and supporters of Dundee United Football Club. This came about in the 1970s when the pitch at Tannadice where Dundee United plays was invariably a mud bath to the extent that large areas of it had to be covered in sand to make the ground playable. At one local derby Dundee FC supporters described United's pitch as looking like a desert and so called those associated with Dundee United "Arabs." The United supporters took this name up and a number of them will be seen at matches wearing various kinds of headgear associated with Arabs.
That's my version of the myth and I'm sticking with it until history can  absolutely demonstrate it to have been otherwise.

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