11 October ~ "Oben am jungen Rhein" (Up above the young Rhine) is played to the same tune as "God Save The Queen", still the official national ditty of anyone living in Scotland. When Sky Sports News replayed the booing which permeated Liechtenstein's anthem during their visit to Hampden last month, many a little Englander no doubt bemoaned the anti-British impudence of "the sweaties". The Sweaty Socks. The Jocks. Yet that pejorative rhyming slang provides a clue to the whole problem.
The 2010 incarnation of my national team's socks, sweat-laden as they will have been when seven minutes of injury time were required to conjure up a winner against a team ranked 100 FIFA places beneath Old Caledonia, bear not just the three Teutonic stripes of Adidas. The close-up slow-mo replays of Alan Hutton's leg being trampled by mortally-offended Liechtensteiners showed "Alba" stitched across the garment. It's the Gaelic word for Scotland and Stanislavsky-like inspiration to the theatrics of the much-lauded, myth-clutching Tartan Army.
The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, once announced plans for an independence referendum with a bit of Gaelic. One suspects the chief reason Gaelic is regarded as really Scottish is that it's not understood by English people. Yet it's not understood by most Scottish people either. Gaelic speakers represent little over 1 per cent of the Scottish population – yes, you could indeed "fit them all into Hampden". And, with the proliferation of potential FIFA members in the last 20 years, we can be sure full Scottish independence would soon see our Gaels playing Gibraltar, Gozo and the Channel Islands in the Viva World Cup.
Why would the SFA approve such a frill by Adidas? Because they think they know their market. It's a patronising and exploitative move to make Scotland seem as though it has a cultural heartland as different from all things English as wearing kilts instead of trousers and eating haggis instead of tripe. Alba on the socks connotes fundamentalist Scottishness – the Sir Walter Scott and Queen Victoria ideal of how subserviently quaint we should all be up here. The SFA and the Scottish mainstream media perpetuate this garbage for the purposes of raising enough nationalistic emotion to support a football team.
Everyone's afraid to say that hating England and loving Scotland are, theoretically, two completely unrelated matters. And the fact you're not a hooligan doesn't automatically bar you from being an attention-seeking pain in the arse. The one good thing about this wee episode of booing – described as "disgraceful" by an "embarrassed" acting SFA chief executive, George Peat – is that it lets the Tartan Army realise they are not the ultimate paragons of sportsmanship they think they are.
Tartan Army used to be a collective noun for the Scotland support but, by the 1990s, it had become regarded as some sort of edict by which anyone attending a game of the SFA's first XI had to dress like Bonnie Prince Charlie. Anyone, that is, except the team. But this worrying sartorial sign of creeping biscuit tinnery on the Adidas strip can at least be countered in the stands. The Scotland support and Tartan Army should no longer be regarded as one and the same thing. Booing that anthem was, like any real football support, neither wholly cuddly nor truly hateful. It was the result of a local media campaign to ensure that, when the anthems started up, no Scotland fan would be left wondering "just where have I heard that tune before?".
The aural barrage was made to order for the tabloids. The booing was a sign of institutionalised victimhood reflected in the Realpolitik of our team's subsequent performance. It might, however, just have been the thin end of the wedge which drives between what the Tartan Army think they are and what the Scotland support knows we are – a proud football nation, sick of wallowing in inverted hatefulness and the failure it brings. A nation which boos German lyrics but wears German socks. Alex Anderson