“A Scottish Person Supporting England is an Impossibility”: Reflections on World Cup Mania and Scottish National Identity

By Leah P. Macfadyen.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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In this paper I explore the significance of Scottish football allegiances during the FIFA World Cup football championship in the summer of 2006. The Scottish national team failed to qualify for the 2006 championship. Contrary to simplistic expectations that Scots would support their English ‘partners’, however, polls instead suggested that less than one third of Scots would admit to supporting the English team. Furthermore, Scots lack of allegiance was widely interpreted by politicians and media commentators as symbolic of broader political allegiances and was hotly debated by senior politicians in both the Scottish and British Parliaments. Why should a sporting event be endowed with the powers of promoting or threatening British unity? In contemporary Scotland, might such nationalist reflexes be considered simple racism? Or, is contempt for the English team a symbolic resistance to perceived English encroachment on economic and cultural life in Scotland? To explore these questions, I examine contemporary theories of racism and nationalism (including Bairner’s “sporting nationalism” (2001)), and postcolonial theory, for their utility in illuminating the continuing relations of power in the contemporary Scottish political, social and cultural context. I conclude by arguing that we are currently witnessing modern Scotland re-imagining itself as a nation (some would say a nation-state), and that football (sport) is one of the rare arenas in which Scotland can currently claim an equal presence on the global stage. In line with Neumann’s (1996) theory of reciprocal shaping of national identities, I argue that Scottish football nationalism is contributing to Scotland’s resolution of its relationship with England as ‘other’, and the evolution of a new Scottish collective identity within a network of relations with other collectivities.

Keywords: Football, Soccer, Sporting Nationalism, National Identity, Collective Identity, Racism, Postcolonial Theory, Scotland, England, Britain

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp.185-192. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 549.753KB).

Dr. Leah P. Macfadyen

Research Associate & Instructor, Science Centre for Learning and Teaching (Skylight), Faculty of Science, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Leah Macfadyen is an an enthusiastic interdisciplinarian with a diverse educational background and research corpus. Her academic career spans the Sciences and the Arts. Leah has a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences (Hons. Biochemistry) and a Ph. D. in Microbial Genetics (UBC); she later completed a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada). She is currently a Research Associate with Skylight (the Science Centre for Learning and Teaching) in the Faculty of Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and teaches courses in both the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science. Leah is interested in the many and varied intersections (and collisions) between the Arts and the Sciences. Her research agenda includes Science and Technology Studies and Internet Research. She draws on theory and research from the fields of education, sociology, intercultural studies and communications, and make use of both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. She is particularly interested in processes of individual and collective identity construction, community development, ritual, culture and language in both ‘real’ and virtual environments.


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