2007 - 2022

Supportin Scotland

Gin ye hink the dool o the referendum wis the lowest Scotland could mak ye feel, Ah’d say ye’ve hud it easy. Fir longevity an hopelessness o suffrin, ye cannae beat the bitter passion o supportin Scottish Rugby. Nae wins in the Six nations in twa year, an no a decent showin fir a lang time syne. Bit the gemme wis nearly up. Gin we didnae beat the Italians this year, the clack wis we’d be cut fae the competition. This wis the big ane. A chance fir ane mair glorious, burnin failure. Or mibbie no. Lik the auld yin merkin oot his lottery coupon for the thoosanth time, ye’re aye hinkin “mibbie the day’s the day…”

Bit awa gemmes ir anent mair thin a sportin shaw. It maun ging thegither wi a guid swatch o anithir airt, anithir cultur. The day, it wis the capital o Italy playin host. Ah pit oan ma kilt an wint fir a guid stravaig afore the match.

Rome. Jings. It’s some place. Ilka piazza is mair bonnie, ilka pizza mair delicious, an ilka monument mair staggerin thin yi would e’er credit gin ye huvnae seen it yirsel.

First, the Colloseum. A stane stadium wi a capacity o mair thin Hamden. Its terraces, aince marble bit nou mair a rickle o rubble an brick, owerlook an oval fechtin pit. Slaves, professional gladiators an wild African animals paggered wi each ithir here. It’s cried efter a muckle stookie o Nero whit bade there fir centuries. It wis taller thin The Kelpies bi feev metres. Emperor Hadrian, the same canny chiel wha biggit the wa atween the Scots an Romans, hud the stookie maneuvered intae position wi a harnessed train o 24 elephants. How he didnae bring thon elephant army north tae smash us tae bits Ah dinnae ken.

Amang the thoosans veesitin the Colloseum, hunners wir Scots. Maist wir kiltit or bearin the plaid. Oor clash an compliment o loadsay different tartans wis a rare sicht. Sae wis wir stracht-backit, self-concious merch afore the array o camera phones pyntit at us bi the ithir veesitirs. Belts like barrel hoops focht agin boukit guts, and baldy heids keeked oot fae aneath Tam o Shanters. Wir buits reeked o Military Surplus shoaps. We luiked lik an unruly Scottish Dad’s Army.

Nixt, the Pantheon. Thon’s an ancient religious ha. It’s body’s a dome, the auldest ay its ilk in the warld, wi a hole in the ruif fir licht cried an Oculus. Pagans biggit it, an sacrificed tae thir wheen o Gods there. Thirs summit gey eerie lingerin in its derk, toom belly yet. The twa thoosan-year-auld wa’s hae bin drookit wi bluid o man an beast, the flair drooned in dubs o gore. The hauntit place gars ye grue. Christians hae bunged a wee gowden alter in there noo, but thons as ceivilisin as pittin a cassock on a Neanderthal. Auld, ithir, unkent ghaists hing in the air lik smoke.

An hour afore the gemme the north ay the toon wis thrummin tae the beat o an anarchic carnival. Canty loons gart thir pipes skirl oot the Freecom Come a Ye’s an the Scots Wha Hae’s, as possies o Italians in reid, green an white wigs took swallies fae bottles an merched alang side. Bairns rode oan shouders o faithers, Italian flags fleein in ilka airt. Cars marooned in the spate o fowk disgorged thir cheery occupants ontae bonnets an roofs, wha smoked fags and watched wi smiles. Wi the monstrous energy o atoms gaithert tae a singularity afore the Big Bang, the hail carnival squeezed itsel intae the circular Stadio Olympico.

Keekin oot ower the saxty thoosan fowk in the stadium, ye could mak oot the Saltires an blue paintit-Scots bletherin in the aisles an poolin thegither in sky-blue lochans aroon the bevvy vendors. The Italians wir oan a rollin bile, waving, shouting, lauchin an singin. Fowk fae aa ower hud descendit oan Rome – a puckle English loons wir gingin aboot dressed as Italian chefs. Teams o gladiators in plastic helmets dooned pints o lager. Hail faimlies crowdit sections o seatin, jostlin an joking. The energy biggit itsel up like lichtenin in a thunnerclood.

The teams spued oot o the tunnel, an we gied that energy voice in ae great roar. We gied it laldy fir Flower o Scotland, bit thir wisnae enough o us tae mak a real din, an wir hertfelt cry tae be that nation again wis swalleyed up wioot a rift bi the great mou o the stadium. Thin fifty thoosan passionate Italians nigh oan blastit aff wir lugs wi thir ain anthem. They hud the reek o Scots bluid in thir neb an wir fired up bi it.

The gemme kicked aff tae anithir primeval roar. Scotland focht weel richt fae the stert. In nae time we’d breenged doon the pitch an scored. We couldnae credit wir een – Scottish players crossin the try line!

The hail first hauf wis Scotland’s. Oor wee Captain Greig Laidlaw, man o the match, wis ne’er aff the big screens, kickin penalties an bein amazin. An Embra wifey near us wis unco fond o the wee Borderer. “Oooo, looook at him!” she cooed whine’er his wee beardit pus wis oan the screen. Guys wi trays o Italian beer dondered up an doon the aisles, flogging us booze, keepin us weel-iled.

A surge o energy wis brocht aboot bi the hosts findin thir smeddum in the saicont hauf. A Mexican wave rolled aroon the stadium as Italian runners whummelt a few Scots, makin grun. Bit lik the wave itsel, Italy’s attack rolled an rolled but ne’er cud brak ower the high watter merk o the Scots try line whin it maittered. The score wis aye ticht, but jist as the gemme wis balanced, we goat anithir penalty fae miles oot.

‘There’s oor Grieg!’ cries Embra Wifey, as wir Captain steps up, direcks his beady wee een at the posts, an maks anithir majestic penalty kick tae tak us oot ay Italian reach. The Edinburgers wir dauncin in the aisles as the Scots ran in anithir try afore the enn.

Then cam the final whistle, an wi it the win.

The Scots supporters wir cerried oot bi the wecht o bodies like ecstatic blue flotsam oan the Italian fluid, birlin blissfully aa the wey tae toon. The nicht wis as ye’d expeck. We daunced, we drank, an ae steamin loon dooked in the watter o a fountain. We filled wir banks wi the precious gowd o guid cheer, stockpilin it tae see us through the lean years tae come.


Alistair Heather is a student o Historie, French an Gaelic atween Geneva an Aiberdeen Universities.


Comments (25)

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  1. Eleanor Ferguson says:

    Alistair Heather so accurately portrays the trials and tribulations of being a supporter of Scottish rugby, as well as painting a great picture of the atmosphere and beauty of Rome and the exuberance of the Italian supporters.Then of course the elation following a win, tempered by the fear (in my case anyway) that another one may not necessarily follow!
    At least I also support tennis and Andy Murray, though that can cause pain too….

  2. Hamish says:

    Magic! Lik bein ther.

  3. Paulo says:

    Fit rare!

  4. jean says:

    is it awricht fer yer mither tae- leave a reply- eh thocht that wiz braw ALly- fairly mad me want tae watch the rugby- next time
    weel done son

  5. Christine says:

    wit a braw accoont o a braw gem

  6. Billy Kay says:

    Vieve an gleg scrievin on baith the dule an dolce vita o supporting the boays. Ma hauf Italian/hauf Scots granddochter Fiona (16 month auld) will maist likely support the daurk blues at rugby an the azzuri at fitba! It maun be great tae be able tae wale yer team, gin ye belang different tradeitions.

  7. Callum says:

    Great wee article. Been a while since we could celebrate after a 6 nations game. Could get used to this.

  8. arthur thomson says:

    A guid read. They dinnae often win but oor lads are aye bonnie fechters.

  9. Iñigo Azurmendi says:

    Incredible description of the match and the atmosphere of Rome Ali! Apparently you made the most of the trip! Scotland played really well! Next one against les grenouilles, see if we kick their ass too!!
    Hope I can read more of this stuff!

    Regards from the Basque Country!!

  10. Chris says:

    Fantastic portrayal. Great read. You must write a follow up article in 5 years time when a heroic 60 year old Gavin Hastings has all of his joints and internal organs replaced and leads us to a triumphant six nations grand slam.

  11. Martin O'Donnell says:

    A Scots win has been as rare as seein oor language written so well reporting on the boys, oan yersel laddie. Mon the Alba!

  12. Alf Baird says:

    The trowth is mibbe a peedie bit unsavoury tae some of you fowk, gin a dinnae want tae burst yer bubble an aw that. Rugby, in Scotland, is played by the middle clesses an a few fermers laddies. Its no really whit ye’d ca mainstream at a’. Its nivver attracted the wirkin clesses, or masses o laddies fi the schemes; fitba wis THE gemme for maist o us. Rugby’s a bit like cricket, tae maist Scots (a gemme for those and such as those). Thon means the ‘pool’ o spielers is aye gonnae be gey limitet, which explains why Scotland cannae generally dae the business oan the park. Supporters an aw tend tae be middle-cless. Maistly (no entirely) 80-meenit patriots a doot. Rugby ‘legends’ votet naw tae, mind – raither predictable a wid say, an pruives ma pynt aboot it bein a gemme fir the middle cless well aff fowk an public school brigade, whit tend tae be anti-independence:

    1. Ally says:

      Ach awa Alf – thon’s a view stracht fae the 80’s.

      Teuchters an posh fowk huv aye loved rugby, nae doot. But noo the gemes professional, Weegies an central belters lik Fin Russell an Duncy Weir are haudin the team thigiter. Ken thirs posh lads an a, bit wir a Jock Tamsons Bairns, an bein posh disnae mak ye a Nawbag by default.
      An fitba? Thon’s the posh yins gemme nou. Whit schemes dae Stuart Armstrong Ryan Gauld come fae fir example?

      1. Alf Baird says:

        “thon’s a view stracht fae the 80’s.” 70s, if ye dinnae mind Ally! Sorry, a find yer view uncritical, a peedie bit romantic, an mibbe frae an orthodox/vestet interest perspective?

        “Teuchters an posh fowk huv aye loved rugby”. That’s yin o ma pynts, naw?

        “noo the gemes professional”. An whit benefits fae thon? Near empty stadia? Too much tv? Dependence on corporate sponsors?

        “Weegies an central belters”. Accents are still a gie-awa; naw quite the schemes if ye ken whit a mean.

        Associations (oh lets!): RBS? Corporate Scotland? National Museum/Lord Smith? Murrayfield Debentures? Private schools? ‘elite’/ancient uni’s? Champagne hampers + Rangerovers? Princes Anne? ‘Legends’ telling fowk tae vote naw? Establishment Scotland (e.g. SRU Board)? Kulturally, its anither warld frae maist Scots fowk. An fer too much tv time fer wha watches, reflectin the power o the (BBC) Establishment. ‘National’ rugby is Unionism ‘writ’ large in ma view.

    2. Wullie Oliphant says:

      Agreed wi maist o that Alf, but ye didnae mind that “public schuils” in Scotland are run bi the cooncils!! Doon south they cry public schools wans ye hae tae pey tae gan tae!!

  13. Frank says:

    Och aye the nooo!

  14. Peadair says:

    Whit Muckle Braw the noo! – Ah readdit’ this arteecle wi mony a richt gled chuckle tae masel acos it is sae gid tae heer the reel, true Scots in everyday yuis, likes of whit it shud bee!

    Maire pooer tae yer elbae !

  15. Steve Murdoch says:

    A braw read Ally. Haud gaan! (Fae an auld Brig o Don Academy ….. hardly a posh skweel in the 70s … loose heid prop) ☺

    1. Ally says:

      That’s the gemme Steve! Ah wis a loosie whin a wis wee an aa. Ah stayed wee, though, an endit bi gittin pit tae full-back. A wis Carnoustie High an a wee bitty Angus Colts. No twa locations hoachin wi auld Etonians like.
      Ah’ve aye bin impressed wi the rugby in Aiberdeen – thirs fower Uni teams fir example. Reckon thirs room fir a pro team in the north? Mibbie sharin Pitodrie?

      Glad ye liked it onywey

  16. Alf Baird says:

    Jings, whit a conflummix niver mynd coincidence! Wha’d iver hae thocht it, wi thoosans o haws ootthrou Scotland, thon Scots Tories pick Murrayfield for thair annual Unionist gaitherin:

    “The Scottish Conservative Conference 2016 will be taking place on Friday 4th March at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh.”

    An here’s a keek intae the auld days when Scots Unionists leukit for a mair muckle haw:

    1. Ally says:

      Haha, nichtmare!
      Didnae even ken masel thit Ah wis complicit in smoorin the speerit o wir aince fine nation, wi ma unnerhandit Tory support :p

      Thon’s a hoor o a coincidence, but a funny yin, cheers fir pyntin it oot Alf

      1. EricF says:

        It was guid tae see Alf pointin oot Churchill’s visit tae the Scottish Conservative and Unionist rally at that hame o Scottish rugby Ibrox. An mebbe this has been forgotten tae:

        Ma team – Gala- are coached bi George Graham frae the Raploch, which ah think is a public school jist ootside Stirlin.

      2. Alf Baird says:

        Nae coincidence ma freend; Murrayfield an Ibrox baith fertors an shibboleths o Unionism, wi strang associations tae Unionism.

  17. James says:

    That’s a fair funny bar hou the Scots tourists becomes attractions fur ither tourists.

  18. Cobra! says:

    A luve seein an airticle in Scots that isna aboot Scots! =D

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