First national team match since referendum
8 October ~ When Georgia arrive in Glasgow this Saturday, the fallout from September's independence referendum will mean more to many Scotland fans than Euro 2016 qualifying points. The Scotland support could never match the recent emoting of politicians but has long been regarded as the voice of raw Scottish nationalism. The encouragingly narrow defeat for the Yes campaign may therefore have echoed the national team's 2-1 loss at World Champions Germany last month. But the Scottish Football Association is not the SNP.
Hours after Scotland voted No, UEFA confirmed Hampden Park would host finals matches at Euro 2020, granting international recognition to football's version of Scotland – a country neither Westminster nor Holyrood has ever represented.
As the votes were being counted, English actor Eddie Marsan's Tweet said it all: "I reckon it'll look like independence right up to about 4am & then Alan Hansen will collide with Willie Miller and it'll all go tits up." Marsan is admirably left wing and has worked on projects funded by Film Scotland. His reference to the defensive calamity against the USSR which eliminated us from the 1982 World Cup was a harmless giggle. But it highlighted the football fan angle on the referendum; that only a Yes vote could constitute a victory for Scotland. A momentous political decision has forced many to consider more deeply what exactly we're supporting at Scotland games.
The national team I watch is supposedly the Scotland of the working class. But it's been a while since that demographic could be applied to either the players, who can become millionaires playing second-tier English club football, or the supporters paying £55 to guarantee themselves the right to fork out over £40 per match ticket for the next three home fixtures. Over the last 20 years the Tartan Army has echoed New Labour in becoming a gentrified version of a concept it now sentimentally patronises. Whichever way they voted in the referendum, the majority of Scottish football fans were united in disappointment with Labour.
The Scottish flag – the Saint Andrew's Cross, or Saltire – was appropriated by the Yes campaign during the referendum debate. While sport is the only worthwhile use of nationalism, it can present very different Scotlands to the one I've watched at Hampden for over three decades. Gleneagles staged the Ryder Cup last month, confirming Scotland's centrality to golf's sexist little universe. In 1991 our national XV played an IRB World Cup semi-final at Murrayfield, Scottish Rugby Union's stuffy home. Hampden itself hosted a memorable family-oriented athletics meeting at this summer's Commonwealth Games.
Andy Murray winning Wimbledon and Chris Hoy's exploits on a bicycle made me happy but only fleetingly. My only connection was the accident of being born in the same country. However, when Ikechi Anya's goal in Dortmund brought my particular Scotland level with Germany, a lifetime of emotional investment had me exploding with joy. MPs have behaved hysterically regarding a decision which required the soberest consideration. I hope Saturday marks a return to the 90-minute patriotism which eschews politics, celebrates a unifying culture and gets us three points closer to France 2016. Alex Anderson