Wednesday, June 05, 2002

The Scotish football fans can be a pretty mean-spirited bunch sometimes. I still remember the frenzied purchasing of Argentine football shirts and flags during France 98 by our friends in the north to enable them to visibly demonstrate their support for a national football team for which they would otherwise have little affection. The fact that they were playing England was cause enough to turn Scottish football fans into honory South Americans/Germans/Spanish...*Martians* should they ever announce their presence in time for a little international/interplanetary sport instead of torturing us with now-you-see-us-now-you-don't sky-flits. As regards other nations no amount of historical atrocity or geographical obscurity for which they are known, will ever be enough, it seems, to ensure a little well-wishing from our Caledonian cousins when the English play sport against - well - any of them. True there's been a few battle-field fisty-cuffs between Eng/Scot over the centuries and a bit of royal palaver; but they're over, move on.

Back in 1978 I was still daft enough to regard the Scottish team as pretty much England except for the prevalence of red hair and a tendency to wear skirts on formal occasions. I was depressed when they were dumped from the competition by Peru - as sad as if the fate had been England's. And I rejoiced at their too late but brilliant win against an inspired Dutch team. No-one ever taught me not to support the Scots - it just seemed natural. And I still, despite everything, like to see them do well.

So when I read this from Vicki Woods notebook column in yesterday's Telegraph I can't help but feel fed up with them because I know it's not an isolated case: "My...[Scottish but living in England] husband... said he'd been in all the sports shops in Newbury looking for a Sweden shirt, and was a)baffled and b)annoyed when he couldn't find one. He had to sit in the snug in his old Glasgow Rangers shirt and spat bricks for the entire first half, until Our Heroes cheered him up by making a pig's ear of the England defence."

The question has to be: why does Mr Woods live in England if his feelings of enmity - towards the national team and therefore England as a nation - are so strong? And how fortunate it is for him that he can sit in an English pub, dressed to provoke, and diss the natives with impunity.

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