The Scottish Cup & Hampden Park
On the 19th of May Edinburgh’s two great footballing rivals, Hearts and Hibs will meet on the hallowed turf of Hampden Park in Glasgow to contest one of the oldest sporting competitions in the world – the Scottish Cup.
England’s version of this top prize, the FA Cup founded in 1871, is the oldest soccer competition of them all; but the actual silver cup itself has gone through several incarnations and the first few versions are long gone. However, the trophy that the winners on the 19th will lift at Hampden is the game’s oldest and goes right back to the dawn of the sport itself. The competition was first held in the season 1873/74 and the final was played at a field close to the modern stadium and was won by Queens Park, Scotland’s oldest team and one of the co-authors in the formation of the rules. Hampden Park is still the home stadium for Queens Park; and throughout the formative years of football’s development they were the nation’s most successful team. The dominance of Celtic and Rangers, the so called Old Firm was yet to come.
Properly the Scottish Football Association Challenge Cup, the current trophy was first held aloft in 1885; and to date Celtic have won it 35 times, and Rangers 33 times, with the rest a long way behind. Since 2001, the winning team only gets to hold and show off the prize for around half an hour as they do the lap of honour and pose for the press. Then, due to its fragility it gets taken back to the cabinet at the Scottish Football Museum, which is inside the stadium. The team then get a replica to display in their own cabinet; which should Hibs win will be for the first time in over a hundred years.
The superlatives of the day don’t end there. Hampden Park, one of the longest continually used international grounds, was when it was built in 1905 the largest stadium in the world with a capacity of around 100,000 (the second and third largest were Ibrox and Celtic Park – also in Glasgow). That capacity would rise to nearly 150,000 by 1937; and it holds the record for the largest crowd at an international match in Europe. It was an intimidating place for visiting teams, greeted as they were by the famous Hampden Roar while walking up onto the pitch. Ironically, the stadium is named after an Englishman, John Hampden, a key player during the civil wars of the 17th century, who had a nearby street named for him.
The first international match in the world was held at a nearby cricket ground in 1872 when Scotland hosted the old enemy England (Scotland was essentially Queens Park). It finished 0-0 – an inauspicious start to the oldest rivalry in world football. England played at the current Hampden for the first time in 1906 (Scotland won 2-1); and this cemented its position as the home of Scottish football. In a way I think this is right and to the benefit of the game in Scotland as a whole; that the national stadium, and the ground where the Cup is contested, is neutral from Celtic or Rangers.
Football is very much part of the Scottish psyche; and as we settle down to watch the showcase event in the calendar it is worth remembering the history, the memories, the highs and lows that have taken place in this great cathedral of sport in the battle for this most venerated and priceless of cups.
This article was written by David McNicoll who runs Vacation Scotland; a travel company specialising in Scottish travel packages. For more information – http://www.vacationscotland.biz/Tagged