The next major football tournament, Euro 2008, starts next month and given that neither Scotland nor England has qualified it is a chance to talk about something a bit more rationally than it is usually discussed.
England qualified for the last tournament (World cup 2006) and Scotland didn’t. When it started and Andy Murray the Scottish tennis player said he wouldn’t be supporting England there was a massive fuss in the English tabloids – and he reportedly received hate mail about the Dunblane massacre (that is where he is from). Murray had previously been reported as walking on the court when being introduced as ‘Andy Murray from England’ whereupon he corrected the umpire and walked off again and returned when reintroduced as ‘Andy Murray from Scotland’.
Murray eventually made a joke about his statement about not supporting England but I suspect this may have something to do with where he gets some of his funding.
When it happens that England qualify and Scotland don’t, the BBC in particular tend to start publishing opinion polls saying that X% of Scots are supporting England. Where they find these people I have no idea. I challenge anyone reading this to go into a pub full of Scottish people when there is an England game on the TV (doesn’t really matter what sport) and see who people are supporting.
You will find that the vast majority, like myself, would not only not be supporting England but will be actively supporting Englands opponents, probably going as far as to sing the national anthem of the other team (in a ‘da da da da’ style obviously).
The BBC, ably assisted by the tabloids, tend to paint the people doing this as ungrateful degenerates hellbent on causing unnecessary discord.
There is an obvious response to it all, which is simply..
It’s my support and I shall apportion it however I see fit.
But here are the things they usually say…
1) We’re all British.
2) The English support Scotland when they play.
3) Scotland don’t have a hope of ever winning the entire tournament.
4) If you don’t support England it means you are a racist.
1. Geographically yes, but culturally we are not and politically we don’t all want to be…a large percentage of Scots want out.
2. We didn’t ask them to.
3. That is not the point and it is just the sort of arrogant attitude that makes me want them to lose – badly.
With regard to point 2, this is often said but I have been in pubs in England and watched England and Scotland games (though not a Scotland V England game) and what I found was extremely far from universal support for Scotland.
With regard to point 4, are Dutch racist for not supporting the Germans? Are the Belgians racist for not supporting the French? Are the Koreans racist for not supporting the Japanese? Are the Ukrainians racist for not supporting the Russians? And so on and so on and so on. Can you find many examples of countries that actively support their neighbours?
There are some interesting other little stories I heard about all of this.
There was an English-owned sports store in Inverness that was told to play the England world cup CD in the run-up to the tournament. Due to the staff receiving verbal abuse daily from customers who didn’t want to listen to it the manager stopped playing it. She was then sacked for doing this.
A journalist put on an England strip when the tournament was on and walked around town in Scotland to see what would happen to him. Aside from a few shouts of ‘english bastard’ from some people going by in cars the funny part was a 70-odd year old man shuffled by him and said the same thing!
To finish, I just want to say it is obvious what the people are thinking. If Argentina beat England you suddenly see loads of Argentina shirts around the streets, if Portugal beat them then you see Portugal everywhere. I read a fantastic thing that sales of Argentinian wine in Scotland briefly doubled when Argentina beat England.
Scotland has been greatly oppressed by England through history – does one ask a slave to support his ‘owner’?