Magazine article Public Finance

Every Underdog Has Its Day

Magazine article Public Finance

Every Underdog Has Its Day

Article excerpt

Old enmities are being revived in the run-up to the World Cup. Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell and Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, have announced that they are going to support Trinidad and Tobago in Germany and not England.

The 'Tartan Army' of Scottish fans say it's the only way that they can back Scotland in the championship. Trinidad has a goalkeeper called Jason Scotland who used to play for Dundee.

It's a laugh really, a way of puncturing the inflated posturings of international football. But it has ignited a storm in the teacup of Scottish devolutionary politics.

Chancellor Gordon Brown and Scottish secretary Douglas Alexander have made very public declarations of their support for England - all part of Brown's plan to make himself more acceptable to Middle England.

The refusal of McConnell to do likewise has created shock and horror throughout the political and media community like an HM Bateman cartoon.

The Scotsman took McConnell to task for being opportunistic, unpatriotic and flirting with nationalism. The Leader of the House, Jack Straw, announced at Question Time that England expects Scotland to do its duty. Jimmy Hill - the football commentator Scottish fans love to hate - said it would be unthinkable for Scots not to support England. The chancellor has not made his own feelings known on McConnell's deviationism, but we can be sure that he takes a dim view.

For his part, McConnell insists football is not politics and he doesn't see why he should lie about which team he supports. He says he is always minded to support the underdog and that Trinidad and Tobago are a good cause, as indeed they are. Many Scots seem to agree - you cannot find a Trinidad and Tobago shirt in Scotland for love or money.

Irn Bru, the Scottish soft drinks company, have produced a TV ad featuring the Trinidadian goalkeeper. Is this unpatriotic? Is it a sign of the Anglophobia which the Economist recently claimed was alive and well in post-devolution Scotland?

Well, it's whatever you make it, I suppose. The symbolism is there for anyone who cares to look. Trinidad and Tobago is a former English colony, a slave state, which is having a chance to have a crack at its old colonial master in Group One. Some nationalists might see Trinidad as a vehicle for fomenting historic resentment at England's domination of Scotland.

Then again, some might not. It's only football, after all. I might support Trinidad and Tobago myself, if it has the right spirit. Then again, I might well support England, as I did in the Rugby World Cup in 2003. …

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