Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Tartan Army lose perspective in McNovo debate

While I'm waiting for these results, I gots something else to say!...

A week or two ago, Nacho Novo said that he would get a British passport and play for Scotland if he was asked to. Novo is a Rangers striker who scored about 25 goals for us in a season a couple years back, and frequently plays as a striker or right-winger, but is usually actually a sub or reserve. He's about our 4th or 5th choice striker, so he's not good enough to play for Scotland. But it was an innocent comment that provoked an uproar among Scotland fans who ridiculed the idea of a Spaniard playing for the team.

That seems kinda obvious, that it would make a mockery of International football. But International football is already a joke thanks to the very lax grandparent rules which Scotland already exploits to the detriment of 'real' Scots.

Novo has lived in Scotland for eight years, got married here, had kids here, and there's a good chance he'll continue to live here when his football career finishes. That doesn't make him Scottish, but to me it does make him more Scottish than many current Scotland players, such as Jay McEveley and James Morrison, who play for us because one grandparent was born in this country. This is because of the supposed 'bloodline' rule which trumps Novo in the eyes of many Scotland fans. But what does 'bloodline' actually mean? That Scottishness is in the JMs genes? That's utter nonsense: there's no such thing as nationality in genetics; when Montenegro split from Serbia, the Montenegran geneset didn't suddenly change. Just because a JM grandparent was born on this side of the border does not mean that grandparent is Scottish, never mind that their grandchildren would be in any way Scottish.

OK, so what does it mean to be Scottish? Does it mean haggis and Irn Bru and - well, generally a poor diet - and stinginess and alcoholism and kilts and bagpipes and inventions and glorious sporting failure? Whatever it means, these are clearly all cultural things, not racial things, these are all things which are suffused into a person's character or experience through living in this country. That's what Scots have in common - we live, or have lived for a fair while, in Scotland. That's why it strikes me as bizarre that Scotland fans can be happier that the JMs play for the country - despite only being here while on Scotland duty and never through normal residency - rather than Novo, someone who knows Scottish culture on a much deeper level. Whenever Scottish nationalists make a claim for our sovereignty, it's not because we're a different race from the English, but because we have a long history of having a distinct culture as a nation. So why attempt to bring genetics into it now?

It's a multicultural world now, so this supposed 'location of birth=genetic nationality' equation is going to become even more nonsensical as mass migration increases. Here's a scenario - a migrant family from Pakistan, and another from Poland, move to Glasgow and raise their children here. The kids grow up with Glaswegian accents and have only been 'home' on short, occassional holidays. What nationality are these kids, if they turn out to be good footballers? According to the silly 'bloodline' scenario, they are clearly Pakistani and Polish, but as nationality is actually a cultural phenomena rather than a racial one, they're more accurately Scottish. Would Scotland fans tell these kids they couldn't play for the national team? Of course not. The difference is that Novo moved here as as adult, and that apparently disqualifies him. The JMs never moved here, but they qualify because of the location of an event that occurred half-a-century before they were born.

A final thing here: England are supposedly Scotland's big rivals. It's practically part of the Tartan Army constitution to hate England: not 'the English', because that would be bigoted, but 'England', the football team and the oppressive institution. Yet, we'll gladly take England cast-offs to play in our team through the grandparent 'bloodline' rule rather than a Spaniard who actually lives here. Why? Because we know that the English are actually very similar, culturally and genetically, to us, more similar than the Spanish anyway. But you wouldn't get any Scotland fan saying that, oh no! Surely if the English are our big foes, we should reject their cast-offs as just that - England cast-offs who're taking advantage of a lucky freak of their family history to further their own careers with no actual care for Scotland or its fans?

I don't want Novo to play for Scotland either, but only because he isn't good enough.

No comments: