30 July 2013

A 63-year wait to see the Rangers - one Kiwi's story

by Gordon Glen Watson | Guest Contributor
Laurie - mum to me.

A wait of 63 years to visit Ibrox is almost over for New Zealander Laurie Watson.

She married David Glen Watson, an ex-British serviceman from Glasgow in Auckland, New Zealand, shortly after the end of World War II and didn't take long to realise that Rangers FC would also be a part of the nuptials.

"David was passionate about football and about Rangers in particular and he brought that love of the game with him to New Zealand," Laurie said. David Watson started a number of football clubs in rural New Zealand including Glen Carron FC, Dannevirke United and Kiwi Thistle FC.

He also pulled on the boots for a club with a familiar name: Rotorua Rangers. Laurie followed her late husband wherever his work on the railways took him and was soon playing football herself. Six months pregnant with myself, she once conceded seven goals before half-time in a women's game only for her grumpy husband threaten to drop her.

That was until she told him she was pregnant.

"He softened after that and substituted me out of the game - I think he was more annoyed I didn't tell him for the babies health than losing the match. It's probably no surprise that Gordon became just like his dad - a dyed-in-the-wool Rangers supporter," she said. 

That was no mean feat given New Zealand is a rugby mad country.

Gordon (me)
"My family is Maori, from a small town called Opua, so it was always rugby for us until David arrived from Scotland. Our house was bedecked in light blue, we got newspapers from David's family and friend's regularly and all our children played football, even the four girls, although they weren't very good at it."

The cultural differences weren't a problem for the young couple to begin with but became an issue where football and rugby clashed.

"David was very proud of his Scottish roots and his father came to live with us when we bought our first house - he didn't fancy rugby much at all. If having one Rangers supporter was hard work, imagine two! All the kids knew the names of the Rangers players and that's just the way it was in our house. Coming to Scotland for the first time is very emotional and I don't know what to expect when we see a Rangers game at Ibrox for the first time."

Her second husband of 15 years, Richard Haggett, and myself are in tow and have planned a trip of a lifetime that includes a Thornton Suite match day experience on August 10th when Laurie turns 81.

"Gordon has been to see Rangers a lot and he's told me how great it is but I guess it's just something that I have to see and experience for myself - it will be a nice way to connect with David as he passed away back in 1986." 

Mum is very excited - we all are - and why not, it's a trip of a lifetime and so many Rangers supporters via Twitter, Follow Follow and the RST have gone out of the way to offer advice and hospitality. I know this is something dad wanted to share with mum - to show her his homeland himself, but sadly that wasn't to be.

I'm sure wherever dad and granddad are, they'll be right there alongside mum making sure she enjoys every second of the journey.

David, my father, in Portugal
Gordon is a Rangers fan and media consultant to FIFA, OFC, New Zealand Football and Auckland City FC. He's been on the FIFA Ballon d'Or jury and has been involved with the Rugby World Cup media operations. Follow him @Gordon_Watson