My own personal rebellion is currently ongoing. It started a couple of years ago when I first sussed there was a chance that the Scotland men’s football squad could rack up an unenviable total of ten qualifying failures in a row if they didn’t make it to the European Championship finals in 2016 or the World Cup in 2018.
Fast forward two years, and that unwanted statistic is now fact. With another World Cup finals tournament upon us and with media and public excitement building to a crescendo, I can say, wholeheartedly, that I’m not exactly ‘Russian’ to join in. While I intend to follow the results and monitor how it unfolds, I can’t see myself binge-watching every game. And it’s likely that the final will be one of the few full games I’ll take the time to watch.
My mild apathy isn’t down to the vast, corporate-sponsored excess that the World Cup has become, it isn’t linked to the expected saturation of media coverage and over-analysis of every crucial incident, it’s not related to the hype that will surround England’s progress - it’s simply due to the fact that another major tournament will slip by without a touch of tartan to add to the colour and spectacle.
Contrast that to days of my youth, when I experienced regular finals appearances from West Germany 1974 through to France 1998. The memories I have from each one (good, bad and indifferent) will forever live with me and it’s sad that the current generation (including my own son) are missing out on the euphoria, ecstasy and agony that a Scotland appearance at a World Cup or European Championships can bring.
Scottish World Cup and European Championship finals appearances have been defining moments in my life. They nurtured my love for Scotland and for the dark blue of our national jersey and I yearn for those days back again. Twenty years is too long an absence from the international stage for a country with our footballing history and I’m dismayed that there is no visible national ‘dark-blueprint’ aimed at bringing that barren spell to an end.
The sole purpose of my ongoing rebellious activity is just to see if I can contribute in some way to helping our wee country wake up from its footballing slumber. In my opinion, I think we have become too accepting of our current fate to the extent that we don’t seem to expect Scotland to qualify for finals tournaments these days. Surely, we should be aiming higher than we currently are, surely there must be other like-minded individuals out there thinking exactly the same as me and surely the patriotic fervour generated by a Scottish finals appearance is something the majority of the nation would love to see?
Bearing in mind that I’m not an ex-professional, media pundit, recognised football coach, sports journalist or football administrator, I wasn’t sure how I could become an agent for change, an instigator of progress, a pied piper for the Tartan Army, a rebel with a tartan cause. My initial thought was to write and self-publish a book combining my own main football memories with a look at why we’ve been absent from the past two decades worth of major tournaments. I thought that might make enough of a splash to generate some interest or debate but so far it has barely made a ripple. I’ve found that publicising a book and generating interest in it is a hard task even with having a name that’s the same as a famous Scottish author. All I can say is that my writing has failed to carry ‘the vital spark’ that I maybe hoped for.
Undeterred, I’m now looking at other ways to carry on my campaign. I’ve never been a prolific user of social media but I’m now having a bash at using that to post some well-timed and incisive comments all referencing our wee country’s continuing non-participation at this level. If my efforts don’t result in me becoming a savvy social media influencer, then I’ll just move onto looking at other options. Could I become a regular contributor on fans forums or broadcaster’s websites, could I start an online petition, could I break into sports journalism with the Scotland national team my specialist subject, should I dust down my tartan tammy and scarf and venture along to Scotland games once more or could I even look out my old SFA coaching manuals and start preaching my footballing philosophy in the world of Scottish youth football again?
I’m willing to keep my rebellion ticking along but there is an inherent danger that it could fizzle out disappointingly (much like your typical Scottish qualifying campaign). Ideally, I would like it to continue until I see the dark blue of Scotland take the field at a World Cup or European Championships again but whether I can actually go any good is up for debate. I sincerely hope I can but the future’s definitely not mine to see. As the Tartan Army often sing ‘Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be!’