England are playing a football game today, and some folk around Glasgow are beginning to become concerned. Germany are out, France have been poor, Brazil haven’t quite got into top gear, Spain’s defence is looking ropey... yes, England might actually have a shot this time. They may, horror of horrors, go along and win it.
Most of you - and this article is directed at the Scottish readers of this blog - shouldn’t worry. Firstly, Croatia, Portugal and Spain should all beat them handily, while Uruguay, Belgium, Mexico, Argentina and France should all be better too. Secondly, there has been a curious amount of chat on Twitter and in national newspaper columns about how terrible it is to wish defeat on the England team, and how we should be supporting and loving our neighbour.
Rubbish. If you’re Scottish and you want England to do well, give yourself a slap. Actually, do that if you’re English and want England to do well too.
Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of folk in the press seem to be unable to tell the difference between football and the constitutional arrangement. This has come from a lot of sides - Unionists who fear that being near a Saltire associates them with separatism, nationalists who fear that anti-English football sentiment will be perceived as anti-English cultural and political sentiment, and those in between who don’t want the bother.
Much as rugby is a dreadful stain on the earth, if there’s maybe ONE THING we could ever learn from it, it’s to take a look at any Scotland vs England crowd at Murrayfield and note that you can fervently wish destruction on an English national sports team while still being a massive, unrepentant No voter. This is a football rivalry, and one that goes back over a century, through times when the idea of Scottish independence was completely unthinkable. The two are not the same.
Football rivalries often exist between nations, particularly in Europe, as a result of historical geopolitical rivalries and previous wars. That’s undeniable. But you don’t need to go peering around Flodden and Bannockburn to find many reasons to dislike the England national team. Yes, they’re not quite as hateful as in the days of John Terry et al, but the usual reasons to loathe them are still there. They’re still talking about how they’re going to win it after scraping past Tunisia and beating a Sunday league team. They still think Scottish football is a joke. And they still infest the half-time discussion with musings on “us” and “our team” when you, a Scot, are just trying to watch Morocco vs Iran.
There’s nothing wrong with cheering your team of course - we’ve all seen the Argentinian and South Korean commentary videos. The difference is that they’re probably not getting broadcast in Brazil and Japan, too. And it’s doubtful whether we’d be getting the same treatment if things were reversed. In fact, we’d respect it far more if they just hated us. Patronising well-wishing is a nightmare - the next time Scotland go out of a tournament, if Gary Lineker ripped off his clothes to reveal he was dressed as Edward I and shouted “up yours, Jocks - your oil money pays our wages, forever in our shadow” then frankly that would be delightful. It’s only football, after all. But then Gary Lineker probably won’t be alive in 2082, so we’ll never know.
They’ve been humiliated by small teams too often recently. So we can hope they do a little bit better. For a change, let’s hope they make a decent run and then get absolutely horsed by the first decent side they come up against. Not even a Germany-Brazil-esque thrashing - just a simple, routine 3-0 win where they have 6 shots and none on target. A properly hopeless reality check. The quarters would be ideal. But any further? In the words of future Scotland manager Mark McGhee, get that tae f-.