I am somewhat mystified by the talk recently about what team Scottish people, and various MPs, particularly Scottish ones, “should” support in the football World Cup. There are no “should”s, of course: anyone can support any football team they want to, or none. It’s just daft, at best, that anyone made an issue of it regarding the behaviour of our public servants.

    But the stranger thing, really, is that anyone might expect a Scotland fan to support England under any circumstances.

    I don’t mean here, a Scot who takes little interest in football between World Cups, but might enjoy watching some of what should be the best examples of the game. I’m talking about your actual, dedicated football fan. Some people suggest that such a Scotland fan ought to support England because we are neighbouring countries, and part of the same meta-country.

    But consider this: Spurs and Arsenal are neighbouring teams, and part of the same city; the same can be said of Liverpool and Everton, Manchesters United and City, and perhaps most significantly, of Celtic and Rangers. Now, tell me this: if Spurs were in the European Cup (as I still think of it) , would an Arsenal fan support them? Would anyone say that an Arsenal fan “should” support Spurs?

    Well, I can’t speak for any of the English teams I mentioned above, but I come from a family of Celtic fans, and was quite a dedicated fan myself in my younger years (before I grew out of the whole thing, and put my interest into music instead), and I can tell you that there is no way on this Earth or beyond that a Celtic fan would ever support Rangers in anything. My Dad’s saying about it not mattering who wins, only had a tangential application to the national teams. Its Platonic form was, “It doesn’t matter who wins, as long as it’s not Rangers.”

    I’m quite sure that Rangers fans feel just as strongly about Celtic’s successes.

    The logical extension of this interclub rivalry is to the national teams of Scotland and England; and no doubt, to those of various other pairs of nations. I imagine that French fans are unlikely to support, say, Germany against Brazil, just because they share a land border with one, and only a planet with the other.

    So really, expecting a Scot to support England is crazy. Supporting the opponent of your greatest rival is perfectly natural behaviour

    It doesn't matter who wins...

    I found myself feeling curiously left out as my colleagues left work to watch the England match yesterday. This despite the fact that I didn’t want to watch it, I purposely avoided watching it, and I intended/hoped to take advantage of the reduced commuter traffic (not much reduced, as it happened: such is London’s diversity) to get home easily, and collect my kids from school.

    Where they were watching the football, of course, courtesy of the after-school club.

    Above all, if I had intended to watch it, my sympathies would have been with the other side anyway: I am Scottish, after all, and as my Dad used to say, “It doesn’t matter who wins, as long as it’s not England.” Plus I’m a sucker for an underdog (I mistyped that as “undergod”; there’s a story in there, I’m sure).

    But despite all that, as my colleagues left the office for the pub or wherever, I still felt a slight echo of the thing I felt as a kid when I was left out of something that “everyone else” was doing.

    We all want to be part of a tribe, I suppose.

    In the end I watched he last half hour or so at the school; from just before the scary personality-cult chants of “Rooney, Rooney!” to the end. The cheers, as you might expect in a primary school, were very high and shrill. I was pleased, though, that Trinidad and Tobago’s goal (before it was disallowed) got almost as loud a cheer. This was Hackney, and of course, there are a lot of kids with Caribbean ancestry.

    And maybe a lot of good sports, too. Maybe I should learn from them, and support England. But I can’t see it ever happening: there are some early-learned prejudices that die impossibly hard.

    So I guess I’m still part of a tribe.