People who know I’m a football fan and know there’s a World Cup on, but apart from those two facts don’t know much about football, have been asking me: “Are you going to South Africa?” I politely answer no, and then explain it’s because Scotland didn’t qualify. What I’m really thinking is, “Why the fuck would I go? Scotland didn’t qualify.”
I’d like to think I don’t care about the World Cup, but I do. It’s been 12 years – 12 dismal years of decline – since Scotland have qualified for a major tournament. Despite the misery of the Morocco massacre, I had a great time travelling around France that June. I will always look back on those few days in Bordeaux as some of the best following Scotland, for way too many reasons than I have time to go into here. But the theme tune will be Doe A Deer, of course.
What does the World Cup mean? For me in 98: John Collins’ cheeky smile, singing Sinatra in Paris pubs, bumping into Brazilians, seeing Gavin Hastings in the Rue de Rivoli, three games of world-class football every day, fast trains to new cities, enjoying the company of intelligent football-lovers, fast food in new cities, a bloke who really does call himself Fat Boab, taxi drivers who tell you they love your national anthem, Aberdonians running out of the toilet with their trousers round their ankles because they hear everyone cheering a goal against England (I could have done without that memory, to be honest).
Speaking of England: one of the responses to last week’s “Dear England” rant was that I am just jealous. I admit it – I am. Not of their underachieving football team, but of the fact that England supporters have a reason to visit the Veldt, and I don’t.
And I’m not sure I will have a reason to go to Poland or Ukraine in 2012, either. Or Brazil in 2014. Though in many ways I’m lucky – I was in Sweden, and England, and France. There are people following Scotland now who’ve never followed our national team at a major tournament, and that’s a real shame, because these tournaments are like the best away game, but squared.
Euro 92 to me means Gothenburg: sleeping on an ice rink, then watching Scotland’s wheezing overweight hacks lose 5-2 to the fitter and more talented Dutch journalists. Stockholm: meeting a Swede named Jimmy McGyver (or something equally ludicrous – his father was from Clydebank) who took us to a German karaoke bar full of Danes and Swedes and Germans, which erupted when Dancing Queen came on the jukebox. Norkopping: seeing two adult Rangers/Scotland fans fake-humping each other in front of a Salvation Army choir (we’d shared a litre of vodka with them that lunchtime). Nonsense, but unforgettable nonsense – even after the vodka.
But I’m not going to South Africa. If I were to go I’d just be a spectator, and to me, football is not a spectator sport – it’s a supporters sport, and I have no-one to support. OK, yes, I could support the 31 teams who aren’t from England, but when it comes down to it, I don’t actually *enjoy* not supporting England, it’s just something I have to do. If I went I’d just be a hanger-on, like that weird Finnish woman who followed the Tartan Army around Europe in the Euro 2000 qualifying campaign.
Holland to beat Spain in the final.