Looking for a family day out to keep the kids amused? Give the rugby a try.
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
A version of this post first appeared in the Edinburgh Now supplement of the Daily Record
THINK Edinburgh and family day trips and you might mention the zoo, the castle or a photo stop with Greyfriars Bobby followed by lunch in one of the nearby cafes that claim to have spawned Harry Potter.
Probably not so high up the list is the thought of taking the nippers along to watch a group of burly men knock six shades out of each in the name of sport involving oddly shaped balls.
Here’s a thing though, those of an egg chasing disposition have long-known that a trip to Murrayfield to watch a rugby international is a cracking family day out.
Live in the capital and you can’t help but notice the rhythm of the rugby calendar. During Six Nations home matches the city centre springs to life on a match weekend.
Whether it’s a red tide of singing Welsh fans, the green Tsunami of laughing Irish, the too cool for school presence of Les Bleues fans or the smaller-yet-glamorous Azzurri contingent following Italy, the supporters make a huge impact in the city centre.
Princes Street and the Old Town buzz with the ringing of different accents and foreign tongues and the march of the fans from the city centre to Murrayfield is an event in its own right.
Throngs of foreign invaders are joined by the kilt-wearing and face-painted hordes of Scottish fans to form a good-humoured procession through the West End and Haymarket to the girdered bowl of the stadium.
It may still be three months until the Six Nations kicks off – and February’s match against the Auld Enemy is already a sell-out – but November offers a couple of outstanding dates for anyone who fancies trying out that Murrayfield family experience.
Visitors this month include two giants of the southern hemisphere game, the Springboks of South Africa and the Aussie Wallabies. For the rugby purists I daresay these matches are a mouthwatering opportunity to admire ball handling and scrummaging skills from distant shores.
Let’s face it, rugby is one of those “all-in” sports. Most of the people watching matches are members of a club and have played or supported the game all their lives. They’re properly invested.
I’ve never played rugby, couldn’t tell a ruck from a maul, barely grasp the rules and won’t be found at weekend club fixtures sporting Tweeds or any waxed wearables. That said, I’d happily turn up at every home international to soak up the occasion.
It’s precisely the insular and grass-roots nature of rugby which makes a trip to Murrayfield such a worthwhile experience. Those who go along are there for the genuine love of the game and the positive attitudes and actions of the supporters make the atmosphere so special.
Without the millions in TV money which is being spent to refashion top tier football into a family-friendly day out, rugby has effortlessly mastered the trick of gathering almost 70,000 people in a rarefied celebration of bruising competition, while maintaining a carnival atmosphere
You can leave behind any worries about women or children being exposed to harsh language or inappropriate behaviour – it simply won’t be tolerated at Murrayfield because there are so many women and children in the crowd.
If you’re really unlucky at an international game, a Frenchman might get his cockerel out – though releasing of the emblematic Gallic bird seems to have gone the way of the dodo. These days the poultry-related antics at France games tends to be confined to hen-shaped hats.
That’s what you can expect at a Scotland international – a riot of colour and character; passionate fans with painted faces, dyed facial hair, outlandish and garish outfits and lots and lots of flag-waving.
Segregation doesn’t exist and rival supporters mingle happily throughout the match build up and sit together. Joining a full-throated rendition of Flower of Scotland seconds before kickoff is an experience to prickle the nape of your neck.
In terms of sporting contest, is there a better way to introduce kids to the principles of excellence and good conduct? The players are finely honed specimens of athleticism. The action is high-impact. No-one argues with the ref and the chances of histrionics or hissy fits is remote.
Still not sold? Then this might just be the clincher – there’s no alcohol ban in Murrayfield, so you can relax with a drink while the family settle in for a day out with a difference.
Surely worth a try?
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