As I’ve mentioned before, I am an English girl in Scotland – and whilst most of the time, living in Scotland is almost exactly like living in England, there are a few big differences. Today, I want to write about something which I had absolutely no experience of before I moved here; the anger, bitterness and pure disdain that Scots express… towards the England national football team.
I love football. I grew up in a family of mixed footballing allegiances – my brother chose Liverpool FC out of the blue as his team, my parents are West Ham fans to this day, and my grandfather used to take my cousins and I to see Leighton Orient play too – and the only time we were all united in our support was when the England national team played.
So yeah, football was always important to me; but watching the England team, my national team, that was when my feelings were strongest. This was the team that united my family, united the country. I remember the time I most vividly remember seeing England play – the England vs Germnany World Cup qualifier where my team beat the Germans 5-1. (Do you remember that game? 6 goals, England going a goal down only then to get five back – and even Heskey scored!) It was that day that I realised that I might follow other teams in my lifetime, but it’d always be England that I cheered on in any big, international tournament.
Which is why I still find the attitude of (the vast majority, but not all, I will concede) the Scottish people in regards to the England football team so shocking. Back in 2010, during the last World Cup, I was in St Andrews for the tournament. It was the first time I’d been in Scotland for an international football tournament, and I couldn’t believe the Scottish attitude. I expected apathy; perhaps even a little bitterness – but at the same time, I hoped that at least a few Scots would support the England team. I mean, wouldn’t you?
But I wasn’t expecting how angry, how crazy the Scots can be. Rather than supporting the team of their neighbour when their national team didn’t make it into the finals of the tournament, I was confronted by a three letter acronym – A.B.E. Anyone But England. It was on t-shirts, on banners, in the newspapers. It was a term banded around by my contemporaries, by my colleagues, by the customers at work. ‘Who are you going to support?’
‘Anyone but England!’
I found, and continue to find this devastating. Yes, I was born and brought up in England, and I support the England football team – because that’s because it was brought up with. I was also brought up watching Wimbledon and eating home-grown strawberries and getting sunburn on the first day of summer; I consider myself British. I supported Tim Henman in tennis, and now I follow Andy Murray happily. Similarly, I now have a Scottish football team. And if Scotland were in an international football tournament, I would support them right up to the day they were playing England. And if England weren’t in the tournament? I’d support Scotland through every game.
I never expected the Scots to be so vehement in their dislike hatred of the England football team. It shocks me, because I (and I believe most English people) see Scotland and the Scottish people as a positive relation; Scotland is England’s neighbour, part of the UK, an ally. I still don’t understand the hatred and the disdain towards the England national team; although maybe it’s just bitterness that the Scotland national team don’t usually get through to the finals. I guess really, hearing people shout out ‘A.B.E!’ just hurts me, feels like a blow to my background, my heritage.
I can remember the day that England crashed out of the 2010 World Cup tournament – I’d been at work. It was painfully hot, and I was working in the kitchen. When my shift finished, I headed out to the St Andrews Pier to complete another St Andrews tradition – the pier jump. Eventually, I made my way to the Students’ Association to watch the match (another England – Germany showdown) in a large, darkened room. I didn’t stay to watch the end of England’s defeat (4-1), but ended up sat in the car park, chain smoking cigarettes and fighting an urge to cry. Before the final whistle blew, I’d been joined by a boy I didn’t know who couldn’t watch the final moments either, before shouting and cheering drunk Scottish boys came pouring out of the building to celebrate. I’ve never felt as far from home as I did that day. I’ve never felt so alienated either.Carley