IT was back to the fitba this week. The last match I had attended before heading to Hampden on Tuesday was in Bielefeld in north Germany.

This was a prospect that lured me from Bremen with the promise of a two-hour train journey and the glamour of a Bundesliga 2 match. The mates and I arrived in a stadium that was as wet as Jacob Rees-Mogg though thankfully not as windy.

The rain was coming down with such relentless force that the uncovered stand – where we were sitting, of course – was renamed the Deep End.

There then came a moment that crystallised the devotion to football that is collectively shared by Auld Shug, Ally, Andy and Matt, the committed (or should be committed to state institutions) travellers to German football. There was an announcement which we did not understand. We feared a postponement. Instead, the match was merely delayed for 90 minutes. We had to sit in the rain, awaiting kick-off. We rejoiced.

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The only entertainment was watching the gradual disintegration of Andy’s designer jacket but we knew the fitba was coming and we were happy.

Tuesday at Hampden was a similarly joyous occasion. I have attended matches at Hampden in seven different decades. The return of a visit to a proper match with fellow spectators in a historic stadium was thus an occasion of some emotion.

This sort of statement is usually followed by some sort of disclaimer about football not really being important etc. Not here.

Football is important to me. It is the glue that has held together some of the most memorable moments of my life. It is now the regular, reliable occasion of my social life with my son. We are blessed. We have travelled the world watching football. Curiously, this was the first time we had watched a match together at Hampden in more than two decades.

Normally, I would be in the press seats and he in the stands. The shared experience was predictably wonderful and oddly enlightening.

The days of the rain in Bielefeld merely emphasised what was obvious. We love a fitba match. So it is no shock that the events in the knockout phase of the Euro 2020 match should enthral us.

Ukraine and Sweden conspired to produce a decent match with a dramatic ending. The surprise was the reaction of some to Hampden’s night in the sun. A few of those in the press seats and many of those watching on telly gave our national stadium a bit of a doing on social media.

HeraldScotland: Fans in 1952 at HampdenFans in 1952 at Hampden

This aversion, bordering on animosity to Hampden, has always slightly irritated me. It seems at odds with my experience down the decades and certainly contrasts with my reality this week.

The first complaint is that Hampden was and is soulless. Yet being among 12,000 fans in a stadium designed for four times that amount was invigorating. We sat behind the Ukrainian fans who produced an atmosphere that was as soulless as high Mass in the Sistine Chapel, though admittedly more boisterous.

Some of my press colleagues insist there is no atmosphere ever at Hampden. This may be news to those who watched Leigh Griffiths’ free kicks against England, Tom Rogic’s late winner against Aberdeen, Barrie McKay’s screamer against Celtic or David Gray’s header in the 2016 Scottish Cup final.

The second criticism is the stadium does not offer good views for many fans. My observations may be clouded by the admission that my early forays were to the schoolboy enclosure where the line of view was equivalent to that of a particularly diminutive worm before graduating to the vast terracings where players could only be glimpsed intermittently as one perched on crushed cans and in the sort of sway that is normally the preserve of a dinghy in the Bay of Biscay.

But in recent years – as a paying customer – I have sat all around Hampden and found no problem in watching the match. My seat on Tuesday was high in one of the stands behind the goal. It was comfortable and I followed play easily.

The third cause of complaint is the relative antiquity of Hampden. This has some validity. The old lady is becoming somewhat shabby.

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But this is an inevitable consequence of comparison with modern stadiums funded by rich clubs or governments with motives bordering on the grandiose. We have neither in Scotland.

Hampden, sold almost two years ago to the Scottish Football Association, does require refurbishment but a dramatic rebuild is not realistic. The cost of raising a new White Hart Lane from the rubble of the old one is thought to have been in the region of £850m.

This is beyond the pockets of the SFA and the desire of the Scottish or Westminster governments who realise there are few votes in spending such a sum on a fitba stadium.

Yet there is a sense of Hampden being priceless. This is where the greatest European Cup final was played, where Zidane scored that goal, where the Commonwealth Games were held, where your team made history, from Queen’s Park to St Johnstone.

It is where I have watched Pele, Maradona, Johnstone, Cruyff, Law and Charlton. It is where I saw Artem Dobvyk score the winner for Ukraine late on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian fans around me will never forget that moment. Hampden now exists in their history. It should be celebrated in ours. Denigration is unsavoury. Demolition would be sacrilegious. Hampden must be protected against the ravages of time and remain fit for purpose.

After all, no one suggests we should tear down Edinburgh Castle because it is not easily defended against nuclear attack.

Our columns are platforms for writers to express their opinions.They not necessarily represent the views of The Herald