The original “Archie Gemmill Moment”

by Author on January 24, 2010

Maybe only Scots can understand why the original Archie Gemmill moment is worthy of its role in describing those moments that sear their way into our memory and stay there. Even so, I bet every other country and culture has their equivalent!

You still find the goal popping up in all kinds of places – as you’d expect, YouTube has plenty of examples – check out this one below and you’ll hear Archie himself, the reference to the goal in Trainspotting and even the dance choreographed to the movements of the goal! (Not safe for work! Couple of swear words in there!)

As the first page of the Knitter says in describing what’s the most important measure of a life, an Archie Gemmill moment has to be something special:

“It all came down to the number of “Archie Gemmill moments” you manage to pack in before you’re too old to recognise when you’re having one. Not just good times, or happy times, or even great times, but pinch yourself because this just can’t be happening, I must be dreaming, Jesus Christ it’s real, 100% bona fide Archie Gemmill moments. They had to be up there with that sublime moment in 1978, when the wee man inspired an entire nation to hold its breath for ten seconds, before erupting in hope blinded by absolute, uncontrolled euphoria. From an ignominious exit out of the world cup, to scoring the most beautiful goal ever seen on that stage, against the best team in the world, putting an impossible qualification a single goal away, all in a matter of seconds. You have to be talking something extra special to live in that sort of company. Half a dozen real Archie Gemmill moments would be the most anyone could reasonably hope for in one great life. Anyone who can pull off even two or three should be eternally grateful. And there’s something badly wrong in a world where everyone on the planet can’t have at least one.”

We all need our Archie Gemmill moments, but what actually made the original one the seminal “Archie Gemmell Moment”? I think there were a few reasons:

  1. It was a phenomenal goal!
  2. It was scored for Scotland in the world cup. We’re a small country, about half the size of London, and we’ve never quite made it to the final, knockout stages of the competition. Archie’s goal put us as close as we’ve ever been.
  3. The competition had been a national embarrassment up to that point. A manager who talked up our prospects before we arrived as though we had a God given right to win the world cup. We lost the first game to Peru, we then drew with Iran, then Willie Johnston tested positive for drugs and was sent home; but worst of all – the last qualifying game was against Holland, seen by pretty much everyone then as the best team in the world. All we had to do was beat them by at least 4-1 to qualify, that’s all.
  4. Archie was the most unlikely looking hero you can imagine – and that made the moment even better.

As usual with Scotland, it’s the impossible that brings out the best in us! Archie’s goal put us 3-1 up, and for a few minutes we believed it might just happen. It didn’t -but that short time when it still might just have was as good as it gets.

What made it the mother of all Archie Gemmill Moments was the coming together of the beauty of the goal, and the context in which it was scored. That’s why Maradona’s goal scored after his famous “hand of God” cheat, arguably a much better goal, could never be a true Archie Gemmill moment. Maradona was already the best player on the planet, everyone expected Argentina to beat England, so as good as the goal was, it will never make it up there alongside the one scored by the short, stocky, prematurely balding genius from Paisley.

Thinking about it, Archie’s goal is probably the only true, 100%, bona-fide “Archie Gemmill Moment” there has ever been on a football field.

{ 3 trackbacks }

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