The matches are a key part of a long-term arts project which is among Scotland’s biggest contributions to the Cultural Olympiad, which runs in tandem with the Olympic and Paralympic games.
Four highly unusual teams, largely consisting of new Scots, played two successive games on the temporary ground, which is the work of Edinburgh-based artist Craig Coulthard.
Some of the players are men and women who are in Scotland seeking safety from violence or oppression. Others have been drawn here by love, work or study. All want to contribute to Scottish society.
The final results saw Nemea beat Olympia 4-3 in the men’s game and in the women’s match Delphi defeated Corinth 5-1.
Andrew Dixon, Chief Executive of project funder Creative Scotland, said: “It has been an absolutely great day and this project has fully justified our investment, not just in terms of how it shows Scotland as welcoming the world, or even because of the beauty of the pitch, but also because of the long term legacy. It will be fascinating for people to come back in years to come and see the way it has grown into a living sculpture, and a major piece of land art, which can be enjoyed for generations.”
Clive Gillman, Director of Dundee Contemporary Arts, who was on the original jury which selected the project for funding, said: “It’s a great project and I think the value goes well beyond the match day today. It has touched thousands of lives and will go on bringing benefits in the future. But today alone has been a great day with two superb matches and I’ve really enjoyed the football.”
In an echo of the Ancient Greek games, each player was crowned with a wreath of laurels. The teams were presented with trophies, which will be donated to the Scottish Football Museum, which already has one of the Forest Pitch strips (which were designed in a national schools competition) in its collection.
Mr Coulthard, who was born in Germany to Scots parents, put his own skills as a former player for the St Andrews Colts to use as goalkeeper for Nemea. After the games he said: “It’s been absolutely brilliant. All four teams played fantastic games and the crowd really enjoyed the day. Players of every possible social background, and from all over the world, have come together in a celebration of Scottish identity and sporting passion.
“Today we have seen all that’s best about the country - its openness, inclusiveness and willingness to make the most of the talents and fresh ideas brought by incomers.”
Forest Pitch is using football to explore and celebrate modern Scottish culture, identity and passion for sport.
Among the teams are players from Africa, North and South America, the Middle East, Russia, Japan, Australia and Scotland.
As an art project Forest Pitch addresses some of the most pressing issues facing the country as it makes far-reaching decisions about its future.
Mr Coulthard said: “The Olympic Games, the Cultural Olympiad and the independence referendum have fused sport, the arts and politics in a very powerful and dynamic way. Forest Pitch is about looking at who we are as a 21st-century society – there are players on the pitch today from all over the world, all bringing something fresh to Scotland.
“The Olympic and Paralympic games have been all about welcoming the world and celebrating ourselves. I’m interested in asking whether we will continue to push forward as an inclusive and open and outward looking country.
“At the same time I want to encourage people to think about the natural environment and whether we are doing all we can to conserve its beauty and diversity.”
The project, which also involves a film and a book, will see the temporary pitch transformed into a living sculpture later this year when the white lines are planted with a variety of native trees.
This will evolve into a “ghost” pitch which visitors can enjoy for up to 60 years to come. The sculpture’s mix of species will be in sharp contrast to the commercial spruce which is all around the pitch and will be a reminder of what the countryside was like in the past.
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