Moldova v Scotland: How the Tartan Army aim to give a little back to Europe's poorest nation

Moldova is one the most impoverished countries in Europe
2022 Fifa World Cup Qualifier: Moldova v Scotland Date: Friday, 12 Nov Time: 17:00 GMT. Coverage: Listen to Sportsound, watch highlights on Sportscene, and follow text updates on the BBC Sport app & website.

Members of the Tartan Army who visited Moldova on Scotland's last visit in 2004 will recall Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, as a poor and underdeveloped place.

Now, 17 years later, the Scots travelling abroad will see a revitalized city, with sport cars parked along the streets. But where is the money?

You will see parts of the country that are still reeling from years of corruption and high migration, if you venture outside of the capital.

The current political direction in Moldova has brought renewed optimism. It is now being governed by a pro European party, one that places anti-corruption at its top, for the first time since three decades.

The country is one of Europe's poorest and has the lowest life expectancies.

BBC Scotland reports that a group from Scotland is trying to help the ex-Soviet nation.

"Finding a charity was hard"

Covid-19 vaccines were not discussed in Moldova until March, because they were simply too expensive.

However, due to financial support from Russia and other countries, an inoculation program was able to begin in March, almost three months earlier than in neighboring Romania.

The pandemic's impact has led to further poverty due to the lack of support from previous governments, leaving citizens to their own devices.

The country's countryside desperately needs to be reformed. The Tartan Army Sunshine appeal (Tasa), a charity founded by Scotland supporters in 2003, aims to help.

BBC Scotland's Neil Forbes, Chairman of Tasa says, "We're donating PS3,000 for a children’s charity." It's going towards families trying to purchase a farm 80km from Chisinau.

It is "a beautiful organization" that helps disabled and poor children as well as Down's syndrome children.

Forbes says, "They want to rent the farm so that the children can engage in animal care," Forbes continues.

"It was difficult to choose a charity due to many of the orphanages, which are many, being closed down due the pandemic. But I believe we have found a great one to donate to."

Large areas of Moldova need serious reform.

"The piper is the focus of attention"

Tasa, aided by the Moldovan FA as well as a "great friend" named Google, was able identify the charity which will be their 88th beneficiary.

This is an amazing achievement by the group, which has given contributions ranging from PS1,000 to PS5,000 for every single Scotland away trip since 2003. Last month, a PS3,000 donation was made to enable disabled access to a Faroese playground.

Another playground, this time at a children’s hospital in Moldova, was funded by the 2004 trip. However, the money comes with a healthy dose of Scottish culture.

Forbes states, "We usually go out a few days early and arrange for a coach." Forbes says that this time, the charity will bring a few children to meet them. We often arrive in kilts, and often have a piper along with us who is the center of attention.

It's a local favorite. It's a great way to get the real emotion and facts of what's happening. Although it is difficult and emotional, it is rewarding to be able to present for the Tartan Army."

"It's so humble"

Although Tasa received her first official donation in Lithuania in 2003 from Tasa, the idea for the group was born out of a Sarajevo bar conversation four years prior.

Scotland fans were shocked to learn that Kemal Karic was a young boy who lost his limbs when his mother, while holding him, stepped on a mine.

Kemal's mother died in her infant son's death. There was no money to provide prosthetic limbs for the child. Scotland fans came together to raise funds for life-saving treatment, launching over two decades worth of charity work.

Forbes was involved for nearly half the time. Forbes picks two memorable moments that make him "well up” today.

He says, "In 2012 we donated to an children's ward" in Brussels. "A lot were terminally ill.

"The father of a single child, who was in serious condition, asked me to give him a Scotland top. I was almost in tears with the father, mother and both of them. It was amazing that we were able to do this.

"Then, in Budapest, 2017, we organized PS5,000 for a nursery orphanage. A St Andrews society contributed PS5,000, a Robert Burns international foundation contributed PS5,000, and a Hungarian Irish business association contributed PS5,000.

They were able renovate the nursery instead of just decorating it. Because of this, I still have many friends in Budapest.