Atween Friday an Sunday last, Scotland funn itsel representit by 3 sports teams. Ane each fir fitba, rugby league an rugby union. Wir fitba team, gin ye didnae ken, was skelpit 3-0 by the auld enemy doon in London. The union team took a sair ane, scunnered in the last few meinutes tae loss by ae pynt tae the Aussies in Embra. The rugby league team (aye, we hae ane, appairently) focht oot a draw wi New Zealand.
Noo, three gemmes an nae wins isnae ocht tae fash wirsels wi. Ah certainly amnae awa tae get masel in a fankle owre whit ‘Scotland maun dae neist’ tae mak a success o hings. Ah’m sayin houiver that the deys o success micht weel be ahint us.
Whit’s mair, as it stauns, wir fitba team and rugby teams are pairt o a heritage maist o us dinnae identify wi. Ah’ll focus oan fitba. Oor team was foondit owre a hunner an fowerty year syne. It cam intae a warld whaur tae cry yirsel a Scot wis tae eik yirsel tae the bluid-an-sile nationalism that bore the gree in thae days. Baith the Scottish an English FA’s were pairt o an aggressive an systematic cultural war agin natives aa owre the Empire. Fitba, wi its rules, smert claes, discipline an aa that, wis a means o ceivilisin the natives. It wisnae for naethin that the Irish nationalists cryed baith fitba an rugby ‘foreign games’ an ettled tae fecht them wi the foondin o the Gaelic Games Associe. Ae Irish scriever says in 1901 that “nocht has dune mair tae blot oot oor nationality than thir foreign games!” Fitba was a wey fir us tae let the warld ken that we were superior. Gie us a baw, a pitch an equal nummer o chiels oan baith sides an we’ll pump yis, cuz we’re Scots, an superiority’s in wir bluid. Mair nor that, gin we were beaten, it wis ainly tae oor still greater credit! We’d made thir ill-trickit foreign chiels intae sic braw ceivil wee bairns o Empire that noo they were guid eneuch tae pley us at the fitba!
Naebody hinks thochts lik thon onymair. An thon’s shuirly a guid hing ?
Ah ken that haein a successfu national team helpit the upbiggin o a sense o wirsels efter the Wars. Gaitherin thegither at Hampden, Wembley or whaureer, pittin oan the tartan, gien voice tae the auld sangs; it gied us an identity that gard us merch intae the 21st century unitit. Academics gang further nor thon. The warld o wir national team, some hae scrievit, wis ane o the ainly placies whaur bein Scottish wis truly expressit in a large-scale wey, giein us a chance tae tak tent o wir unique identities.
Sae aince wir national team unitit us, an gied us a vital sense o thegitherness we didnae hae anithir wey tae express oor identity. We had nae hame rule, whit wee bit Scottish culture wee did hae wis aften ‘low’or no respectit. Twa o wir three leids wis clampit doon upon by the same ‘ceevilisin’ forces whit’d been exportit by Scots owre the empire. Scottish identity becam insnorlt wi the national fitba team in the same wey that Catalonian sentiments did wi Barcelona FC. “Submerged nations” sic as wir ain afttimes hae naethin tae haud oan tae. We hud wir fitba team. Hampden on gemme dey wis a sortae kist o mindins o wha we were unnerneath it aa.
But national identity has moved oan. We dinnae hink oan wirsels as a genetic set o ‘Scots’ wha’s unique Celt/Anglo hybridity gies us an edge oan the sportin field. An we dinnae need thir muckle get-thegithers at Hampden tae gie us a sense o nationhuid.
We hae wir ain parliament in Embra. We hae Grand Theft Auto. We hae Calvin Harris, Andy Murray, the independence referendum, Celtic in Europe, Oor Wullie stookies an a hunner thoosan ithir weys o letting the warld ken we’re here. We dinnae need a national team tae define us. We’re daein it wirsels.
Whit wye, then, can we remak wir relation tae thir national teams, an chynge their purpose so’s they tell us a tale o wirsels that’s worth the tellin?
Weel, the fitba league, the SPL, tells a true tale o modern Scotland. Young lads, an, increasingly lassies wi virr an ambition come through aa the time. They pley twa-three gemmes wi their local sides. Gin they shaw ony promise at aa, they’re sookit doon tae England. Aince there, they dwam their deys awa oan the bench, or else get whummelt in the stramash o academy fitba fir ane o the muckle English Fitba Corporations. Scotland cannae haud on tae its best talent, an England has nae need tae nurture it, sae it gangs tae waste. Thae few talented anes wha stey here, or waur nor thon, return fae England, are seen as failures. No guid eneuch fir the tap leagues doon sooth.
Thon’s unco seimilar tae the tale o Scotland economically for a wheen recent years. We hae aa tint pals an faimly, wha hae flitted tae London or some ithir foreign airt tae mak a better life fir thirsels. There’s lang been naethin here fir muckle swathes o wir young fowk abuin a certain level, an they maun clear aff. It’s pairt o the tale o the nation.
Economically at least hings are luikin up. Firms sic as Brewdog, Skyscanner an Rockstar North are ettlin tae remak wir image o Scotland intae a radical, dynamic place tae wark. Young fowk mair an mair aften are stertin up fashion lines, craft beer hooses, saftware firms an aahin else here at hame. The cranreuch o a lang lang economic winter is stertin tae thaw. Gallus young guns are daein it thirsels, an shawin that it can be done.
Fitba should be tellin the same tale tae young fowk. Wir national team shouldnae be rummlin through the English lower leagues fir pleyers, an getting bluitert three-skud aff aabdy they pley. It should be inspirin us aa wi a tale o rejuvenation an excellence. An here’s ma proposal fir how tae gang aboot it.
The Scotland manager maun wale mair nor seiven o his stertin pleyers fae the leagues in Scotland. This will gie oor pleyers, baith ‘native’ Scots an fowk wha hae made Scotland their hame, a regular gemme at the tap level. Gin we gied them a sniff o regular international fitba, whaur they could get oot afore 50 000 yowlin bams an dae thirsels, their faimlies an their kintrae prood, young pleyers wid be inspired tae stey oan up here. Mair nor that, European fitba is oot o the question fir lads sic as Craig Forsyth, Cherlie Adam an aa them pleyin awa doon in the English leagues, sae mony o them wid flit back up the road tae get their international caps.
Oor leagues wid be gien a muckle shot in the airm by haudin ontae wir best pleyers, an seein the best anes return fae doon the road. The fans at a local level wid hae a reason tae cheer as the quality wid improve. Young lads an lassies could growe fae bairns tae tap-level professionals richt here at hame.
Maist importantly the national team wid stert tae tell a tale anent wirsels an wir kintrae that it’d be inspirin tae hear. Warkin-class lads an lassies wid see Scots fowk sib tae thirsels gettin the opportunity tae fecht wi the best oan the biggest stage fae a Scottish base, an be inspired tae dae the same.
Ah certainly amnae seyin that this wid mak us intae a global force in fitba. We widnae be winnin onymair than we are the noo. It wid, houinivir, gie wir younger generations an opportunity. It wid tell us a tale we’d aa be prood tae hear. An that’s whit biggin a better nation’s aa aboot, is it no?
Ally Heather is a screiver, editor an student at the University o Aiberdeen. Ye can spraff wi him via @Historic_Ally oan Twitter. Muckle thanks tae Graeme Crowe fir help wi this airticle.