I don’t usually write about the fitba, seeing as how I’m missing that gene that makes watching twenty-two millionaires ruin a perfectly good lawn into a spectacle that evokes passion, excitement and, depending on the result, ecstasy or despair. This is probably because my dad was a Clyde fan, before he abandoned the team in favour of Celtic when it abandoned Glasgow, so my childhood memories of fitba matches involve being bored witless after being dragged to see Clyde versus Albion Rovers as they desultorily trundled up and down a muddy pitch on a soaking wet Saturday afternoon in Coatbridge and being desperately disappointed on discovering that when we got the Bovril and the mince pies it was only half time so we didn’t get to go home but had to wait and endure the entire cold, pointless and drookit experience all over again.
It was a bit like getting a mild form of an illness in childhood, which made you immune from it for the rest of your life. This was back when we only had three TV channels and although sport dominated on BBC1 and STV on Saturday afternoons, BBC2 showed old black and white movies instead. Ever after, whenever my fitba-daft father tried to persuade me to come see a match with him and my brother and uncles, I made it very clear that I would far rather stay at home and watch the Busby Barkley musical being shown on BBC2. It had glamour, style, glitz and extravaganza, not to mention high campery, all things that you were going to struggle to find at a second division Scottish fitba match in North Lanarkshire in the early 1970s. It was round about then that when my father went to Mass he started to say a wee prayer to St. Clothilde, the patron saint of disappointing children.
So I was never going to be much interested in the Euros. I was pleased that Scotland had finally managed to qualify for a major championship contest, because I’m not actually a monster. However even though I don’t pay much attention to fitba, you’d have to have spent the past twenty five years on psychotropic drugs to have gone into the contest with the expectation that the Scotland team was going to end up as the champions.
Fans of Scotland’s national fitba team have had decades in which to live with the knowledge that for all their passion and commitment, Scotland isn’t actually that good at the sport which we are pleased to call the national game. This year’s Euros was the first time that Scotland had even managed to qualify for a major international tournament since 1998. Hope ran high, but realistic expecations and a long history of disappointments told a very different story. The passion and commitment remained the same, but for Scotland fans it really was the participation, the mere fact we were there at all, which was the most important thing.
It’s a trite adage, but in the case of Scotland and international football it really is true, it’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part. For a couple of glorious weeks Scotland was an ordinary European nation, participating as equals alongside our peers in Denmark, Croatia, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and England. We were not subordinated to anyone, not subsumed in a team GB that’s really just England by another name. Scotland was present as itself. And while we might not have won, Scotland and its fans showed that they are champions when it comes to sportsmanship.
If you’d been hiding under a rock you might have thought that the Euros were over, but you’d soon be disabused of that notion every time you turn on the TV or look at the pages of a supposedly British newspaper, England is playing Italy in the final on Sunday and already the triumphalism and entitlement is in full flow. The BBC has abandoned any pretence of being a public service broadcaster for all the nations of the UK, devoting itself to wall to wall coverage of the England match in a way that it’s hard to believe it would do for a Scotland match. When it comes to sport in general and football in particular, England is a poor loser and an even worse winner, and Sunday’s match is being hyped up as a chance to revisit the glories of a certain fitba match in 1966 that we’re never going to be allowed to forget about.
Politicians and public figures have desperately leapt on the bandwagon. So we see Boris Johnson, who awarded himself the title Minster for the Union, posing outside Downing Street on a giant English flag and posing for photo ops wearing an England shirt. All week the Union flag lapel badge that is apparently obligatory for Conservative politicians has been replaced on his suit jacket by a wee England badge. It’s hard to imagine him doing the same for a Scotland match. That heir to the throne who was so keen to tell us how much Scotland means to him in an effort to fend off Scottish independence has never been seen at a Scotland match, but there he was with his wee boy cheering on England. Johnson has hinted that he might declare a UK wide bank holiday if England wins on Sunday.
English exceptionalism is on full and ugly display when sporting fixtures are concerned. It’s not the fault of the players or ordinary fans. It’s the fault of a hysterical and over the top media which latches on to sporting victories as a substitute for England’s lost greatness. It allows English nationalists to forget, even if only briefly, that their nation is no longer a global superpower ruling over a quarter of the globe, but a middle sized European nation whose leadership and institutions all too often find basic competence too much of a stretch. Sporting victories mean so much to them because it’s all that they’ve got.
If England wins on Sunday we won’t hear the end of it for another fifty years. The supposedly British media is graceless, resentful and entitled whenever England lose, but they are utterly unbearable whenever England win. A majority of England’s voters might have chosen to leave the EU and decided that Scots had to lose their European citizenship too, but on Sunday I’ll be remembering all those times I enjoyed an ice cream at Nardini’s in Largs and figuring that’s more than enough to qualify me as Italian.
NEW MODERATION POLICY
In the wake of recent events I am determined that this site will not become a home for bigots and conspiracy theorists. They will not be welcome here. Moderation is the most stressful part of running a blog, but this site is going to continue to make the positive case for independence. With this in mind as of today a new moderation policy is in force.
Anyone who attempts to use this site to post hatred, bigotry, or conspiracy theories will be banned. If you attempt to insult and abuse anyone you will be banned. This site has a zero-toleration policy for homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny. Failure to respect this will result in a ban.
If you intend to spend the next four years undermining the SNP, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence parties that the great majority of independence supporters voted for, you can do so somewhere else, because you’re not going to do it here. The reminder that has regularly appeared on this site is not a serving suggestion. It will be rigorously enforced. If you don’t like this rule – there is a small x at the top right of your screen. Click it, close this page and go elsewhere.
This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.
Scotland will have another independence referendum at some point in the next couple of years. Until then, this blog will continue to publish articles which – I hope – are amusing, entertaining, and which help to educate Scotland on the need for independence. However in order to do so I need to eat and pay my bills. Due to my reduced productivity and the limitations imposed on me by my health, this year I am asking for half the amount I’ve requested in previous fundraisers. I hope to raise £5000 which will go towards supporting myself for the next year.
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