Football

Supporting Trinidad

Not me, you understand, but a man called Jack McConnell, who is something called the First Minister in a place called Scotland, which according to Wikipedia is “a nation in northwest Europe”, somewhere to the north of England. The Times reports that Mr McConnell has been accused of “stoking anti-English racism” after the home of an English football fan living in Scotland was attacked:

Allan Robinson, 44, accused the First Minister of putting English people living in Scotland at risk. Police said that they were investigating an “act of vandalism” on Mr Robinson’s home in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, in which three windows were smashed as the opening game of the tournament got under way last Friday. Anti-racism campaigners described the attack as “moronic”, but Mr Robinson, who is originally from Leeds and moved to Scotland five years ago, blamed the First Minister. “Me putting up a single flag . . . and my windows going through, I think it’s all to do with what Jack McConnell says“.

But if you look at what Jack McConnell says it was actually quite anodyne – asked whether he’d be supporting England he answered “No, I will not. Scotland is not there and that’s disappointing. And there are people who think that as First Minister I should automatically support England instead. But football is not about politics, so I will not be”, which hardly amounts to Incitement to Racial Hatred, does it. Instead Mr McConnell will be supporting Trinidad, which seems reasonable enough to me, given that one of their players is called Jason Scotland and plays in Scotland. Gordon Brown on the other hand, as Magnus Linklater writes, “will be supporting England, and he clearly thinks it is a patriotic duty to do so…Just to rub it in, he says that the finest goal he ever saw was scored by Paul Gascoigne for England against Scotland in the 1996 European Championships – as controversial a statement as has ever been issued by a Scottish politician”. The move by Mr Brown, which was seen by cynics, and by everyone else, as a bid to curry favour with English voters, led to his being accused by someone called Alex Salmond, leader of something called the Scottish National Party, of being “desperate to become an Englishman.”

Alex Salmond seems more in tune with most Scottish people than Gordon Brown – according to the Times:

Sports shops across Scotland have struggled to cope with demand for Trinidad & Tobago strips and Jason Scotland, the Trinidadian striker who plays for St Johnstone, the Scottish first division team, has become a cult hero with a song in his name sweeping to the top of the charts. Some bars are offering free drinks whenever England concede a goal and a sports shop in Angus is giving free golf balls to anybody wearing the strips of England’s opponents.

If one wanted to be cruel – which of course one doesn’t – one might suggest that this kind of behaviour, somewhat lacking as it is in magnanimity, hinted at an inferiority complex, or that it was a poor substitute for actually being at a World Cup. Not me though – I’m happy for people to support whoever they want, and think it’s ridiculous that Scottish politicians should feel obliged to support England. But perhaps in future, in order to avoid all these petty arguments and give them someone they can all support, maybe the Scots should form a football team of their own so that they can enjoy the World Cup like everyone else.

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