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The Beautiful Game: why football's part of who we are in Scotland

I was born kicking a ball, which possibly explains why my Mum burst into floods of tears the very second I emerged.

It's part of who I am.  Who we are. 

A part of nearly every working class Scot, one way or another.  

As far back as I can remember.  There's always been football. 

First off, there was playing the game.  Which always was and always will be the best bit.  Competing - being out there, on the pitch - games with strips - the School Team, The Lifeboys, The Boys Guild. 

Freezing cold Saturday mornings, blue legs, snotters and Mouldmasters number fours. Twenty two wee boys on a full size pitch and about 20 of them - quite possibly containing the 2 goalies - chasing the ball in a bunch like a crazed lynch mob.

Then as I got older, more serious games, leagues, Saturday afternoons, Youth teams, Boys Clubs, amateur football - well organised but potentially brutal. 

Intimidation and mind games.  Watching the opposition midfield cruncher necking a can of lager and smoking a scooby at half time as your own team's resident ned muttered advice about ripping your shirt off as soon as the boxing started  - 'So as they canny get a good grip o' ye.'

Then - second best but no less intensive and personally obligated - watching the game.  Being a supporter.  A fan.

Your team.  Your families team.  Just about everybody you knew's team because you never really knew all that many of the other mob, given that you were effectively socially segregated from birth. 

Triumphs and disasters.  Disasters of the other lot trumping any triumph experienced by yours.  Trumping it by a long way, to be honest. 

That feeling of satisfaction, even when you knew it was wrong - not even satisfaction, joy really - at someone's else's misfortunes. 

Is it any wonder we all turned out a bit weird?

Football never leaves you.  You might wish that it would - you might become cynical about the game, pretend that it's all a conspiracy, that it's too political and ridiculously money oriented - but the chances are, even as you rip it to shreds, you'll still be spending a large part of your waking day, talking, thinking and reading about it.

Even now, here in Australia, the first thing I do on a Sunday morning is look for the results. 

To see how my own team have done sure, but not only.  I want to see if we won, but even if we did, I still get a lot more pleasure if they lost.

And then there's your other team - the wee diddy team you pretend you truly support when you're trying to impress someone with your fair mindedness and liberal tendencies - how did they do?

(It's St Mirren, in my case, so obviously, they lost.)

It never leaves you. 

Old Firm Games are played - when they were played - at about midnight in Australia with the time difference, but even in a small town of 250 people like Swifts Creek I managed to find a fellow supporter with a subscription to Setanta. 

What are the chances?

They do play the game here, you know.  The Aussies I mean.

Not Australian Rules Football, I'm talking about Soccer as it's known - which is short for Association Football so that's okay. 

They're all right at it I suppose - but a good Scotland team would generally take them pretty comfortably, I'd say.

Who am I kidding?  A good Scotland team?  Come in Wing Commander Porky Pig.

The fact is, Australia would pummel us, in all likelihood.  I don't know how it happened because, let's face it, it's not their game, but even although the Aussies are a few places below us on the official FIFA rankings, I still think they'd give us a right doing.

And they're going to the World Cup.

Now, it's not the same thing, it's not like it's Scotland who'll be in Brazil next year.  But surely it's better - and bound to be much more fun - than simply getting your spiteful ugly joy from watching England getting emptied?

I think it'll be a lot of fun.  That's why I'm going.

I know it's hard to take when it's not us, but the draw for the group stages was made on the weekend, pitting Australia up against Chile, Holland and Spain in three different cities hundreds of kilometres apart. 

Obviously they'll get gubbed, but then so would we if we'd made it and I don't think any Tartan Army soldier would be all that bothered.

Just as long as we made a game of it.  For the first 10 minutes at any rate.

My mate Des and I are planning the Brazilian trip and I have to say you need to have your wits about you to even consider it.  True to form FIFA's initial ticket allocation ended in chaos and confusion with the vast majority of the millions of tickets on offer being sold in Brazil at a heavy discount - a situation which doesn't necessarily mean that local tickets might be resold at some stage on the black market at vastly inflated prizes but possibly might.

Then there's the flights. 

Where do you fly to?  Hotels?  Bars?  Nightlife?  A ball park figure of $10,000 at the least I'd say. 

But it'll be worth it.  The Maracana Stadium in Rio is and always has been the Mecca for any serious football person.

Brazil, sorcerers of the samba, masters of the mambo.  The hosts - the favourites and I think, eventually The World Champions.

As wee John Robertson - Scotland's right winger - said to the crowd during the 1982 Scotland Brazil game as he went to take a throw-in, 3-1 down.

'Aw, don't gie us a hard time boys.  After all - this is Brazil!'

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