There are many reasons to visit the Côte d’Azur, but art surely ranks among the top 10 with the assorted galleries affording tourists plenty of scope to admire the works of Matisse, Chagall et al.
Dunfermline may lack similar artistic pulling power but, these days, Scotland’s Caroline Weir is not merely one of Shelley Kerr’s most accomplished players. The attacking midfielder blessed with a bewitching left foot is still adjusting to the reality that her face beams down from a giant mural adorning the exterior of an Indian takeaway in her home town. “It’s a bit crazy,” she says. “Me and Claire Emslie were talking about murals the other day because she’s got one in Leith.”
Through the windows of the team hotel lobby near the Promenade des Anglais, a warm, restorative sun dapples the hotel’s jasmine and bougainvillea-filled garden. All is outwardly serene but Scotland’s emotions as they enter their first World Cup finals and prepare for Sunday’s opener against England are rather more highly charged.
“The attention we’re getting is a bit mad, a bit crazy,” says Weir. “But it’s something that hasn’t happened overnight and we’ve always wanted the country to get involved and be interested in women’s football so we’re embracing it.
“It’s all gone to a new level and it’s not something I ever expected to happen when I was growing up in Dunfermline, but I feel very honoured. My dad spotted the mural a few days ago and sent me a picture. It’s near my old primary school, Pittencrieff, but it’s painted on the side of an Indian takeaway. It’s called the Royal Bengal and, to be fair, it’s quite popular, so I’ve been buzzing. I haven’t eaten there myself, but I’ve heard good reports.”
Moreover, the mural appears to be bolstering local pride. “I’ve been getting supportive messages from people across Fife and I feel very honoured to be representing them in a small way,” says Weir. “But I don’t know what will happen to the image after the World Cup. I hope it’ll stay there for a little bit longer, but there’s a lot of rain in Dunfermline so maybe it’ll wash it off.”
The Manchester City midfielder trusts Scotland’s progress under Kerr will prove rather less transient. “Tactically, Shelley’s very switched on,” says a 23-year-old who has modelled her game on those of Zinedine Zidane and Kelly Smith.
“What’s great about this team is that we’re given a lot of freedom, it’s enjoyable and exciting to be part of. We try to build from the back and we want to play a nice brand of football. Sometimes we maybe put ourselves under a bit too much pressure, but we aim to play an attacking style and that’s the risk you take.”
Scotland’s change under Kerr is such that Weir describes the difference between now and two years ago when they were thrashed 6-0 by England in the opening match of Euro 2017 as “a totally different ball game”.
That defeat proved a salutary lesson. “It was a tough game, we learned a lot from it and we definitely don’t want a repeat,” says Weir. “We’ve now got a different manager, different tactics and people like Arsenal’s Kim Little available who weren’t fit for Euro 2017. The whole squad has also been training as full-time professionals for six months and we’re much stronger and more competitive.
“It all makes you a lot more confident for Sunday. England are a top team and we’re not daft, but we’ve shown we can compete against some of the world’s best sides. We’ve got a gameplan; hopefully we can execute it and, as a Scot, I don’t think there’s a better international match to win.”
Should Weir clinch it courtesy of one of her trademark free-kicks, the Royal Bengal may have to be re-named; Lady Caroline’s anyone?