Weather pitches in as Cultural Olympiad games meet their match

Local referee Frank Campbell gives the the thumbs down to saturday's game going ahead.
Local referee Frank Campbell gives the the thumbs down to saturday's game going ahead.

TWO football matches due to be played this Saturday on a £460,000 forest pitch near Selkirk have been postponed.

The soaking surface, which was created over two years in woodland on Buccleuch Estate, was deemed unplayable by local referee Frank Campbell at 12.30pm yesterday (Wednesday).

The two games – men’s and women’s matches involving people who have recently moved to Scotland – are now to be played on Saturday, August 25. And spectators, who were expected to number 1,000, have been told their tickets are still valid.

The Cultural Olympiad project is part of the London Olympics celebrations, with the idea by Edinburgh-based artist Craig Coulthard being commissioned back on October 2009.

Mr Coulthard told TheSouthern: “It is very disappointing, but I’m optimistic it will be a more enjoyable experience for the players and spectators by playing it on a different date.

“At the moment the pitch is potentially dangerous for the players.

“It has been nearly three years since Forest Pitch was commissioned, but in the whole scheme of things it wouldn’t have been a good idea to try and go ahead with the matches in the current conditions.

“The guys who look after the pitch have done everything they can, but like other sports fields in the local area it has suffered from the bad weather.

“I am grateful to everyone locally and nationally who have helped the project so far.”

Forest Pitch has had its critics, with Selkirk residents and football coaches in the Borders questioning the value of installing a six-figure football pitch which will only be played on twice.

Speaking to TheSouthern last year, Mr Coulthard said: “The issue with the money is understandable, especially with budgets being cut, but it’s not really relevant as it was National Lottery funding which was set aside for this project.”

Local involvement has included pupils at Kirkhope Primary School designing corner flags for the ground.

Earlier in the week, Forest Pitch organisers appealed for information on what became of the commemorative cup or plate made for the men of Selkirk for their role in the game of football.

Carterhaugh Ba’ took place in 1815 and saw teams drawn from the estates of Duke Charles of Buccleuch take on the men of Selkirk, Hawick and Galashiels in a contest involving hundreds of players and very few rules.

Sir Walter Scott was involved in designing a commemorative cup or plate that was present on the day.

Bowhill House is now looking to re-enact the game in 2015, while Abbotsford is considering whether there is the potential for a temporary exhibition.

Mr Coulthard added: “Sir Walter Scott had an immense influence on Scotland’s sense of cultural identity and on how the nation was perceived by the wider world.

“These issues are just as important today at a time when Scotland is debating its future, and at a point when its population has become so incredibly diverse.

“Forest Pitch is all about bringing people from different groups together to highlight Scotland’s diversity, to celebrate our evolving culture and identity.

“There are some fascinating parallels, and differences, between the Carterhaugh Ba’ and what we are doing today.”

Mr Coulthard added: “Both displayed a passion for amateur sport and both tell us a great deal about the values and ideas of the times in which they took place.

“Something that particularly interested me is that the Scottish Football Museum told me that Sir Walter Scott was involved in commissioning a commemorative cup or plate, but have no idea whether it still exists – if it does I would love to see something which takes us so far back in the game’s history.”