January 7, 2021
‘I bribed a stadium guard with whisky and got dead close just as he was lifted on to another player’s shoulders. It was like a biblical scene. He looked magnificent’
On the final day of exams at Edinburgh University in the summer of 1986, most students partied, but I flew directly to Mexico City. I was 20 years old and studying business and economics while taking photos on the side. I’d never been to the Americas before, and I wasn’t at all a good photographer; in fact, I was incredibly average.
I arrived at the 1986 World Cup under the guise of being a freelance photojournalist, but I was a Scotland fan first and foremost – they always used to say that Scottish journalists are just fans with typewriters. I did have a press pass that I’d managed to blag off the Times, which granted me access to the media pen, but I was much more interested in watching football than taking photographs of it. There was a moment in the first round of a match with Uruguay when Scotland missed an open goal. Back at the Times they were watching the TV coverage of the game and could see the striker with his head in his hands, and in the background me with my head in my hands and with my camera nowhere near the moment. And they thought: “Well this guy, Yarrow, he’s not focused on the task at all.”