Is it time to drop our national obsession with football?


  By a Newsnet reporter
The sounds of wailing could be heard around the country within moments of Scotland’s latest footballing failure.
Saturday’s draw against an ordinary Serbian team put Craig Levein’s men on the backfoot in a world cup qualifying campaign that is surely now destined for disappointment.

Levein sported what looked like a pair of sunglasses throughout the match, no doubt in anticipation of a dazzling display.  However by the time the final whistle blew, the hapless Scotland manager could have been forgiven for using them as a means of disguise in order to escape the howls of protest and the cacophony of boos.

Scotland won’t qualify for Brazil 2014 – anyone who has witnessed Levein’s brand of safety-first knows that the writing is already on the wall.  If Macedonia take anything from Tuesday’s must-win match then this campaign will become little more than a series of preparatory friendlies as the SFA start the process of finding Levein’s replacement.

Having witnessed Scotland’s slow footballing death from the halcyon days of West Germany in 1974, where a naïve Willie Ormond narrowly failed to qualify for the World Cup second stage, it is now evident that football has become too big a burden on the Scottish psyche for the profile it enjoys to continue.

It must surely be time for other sports to be given a look in as football’s stock continues to fall north of the border.  The obvious replacement is rugby, where the game is thriving at club level and our international side does not regularly fail to meet even modest expectations.

Edinburgh drew fantastic crowds this year on the back of their Heineken Cup run, losing narrowly to Ulster in the semi-final.  Glasgow didn’t quite manage to emulate their east coast rival’s cup run but the signs of improvement are there and with a higher profile from the Scottish media who knows what can be achieved.

Rugby has enormous untapped potential and could yield significant return if some of the resources currently soaked up by football were to be re-directed.  The Olympics showed how youngsters can be persuaded away from football into other areas and such an opportunity awaits for Scotland’s Cinderella sport.

Of course it isn’t just rugby that would benefit from a radical change in sporting focus.  There are many sports currently languishing in the media deadzone just waiting to inspire rather than depress. 

Shinty for example is a sport that generates passion and excitement, yet few will ever have witnessed one of Scotland’s national sports.  Take a look at how Ireland’s indigenous sports of Hurling and Gaelic football thrive to see what could be achieved.

Croke park in Ireland is the home of Hurling and Gaelic Football.  Thousands regularly attend Hurling matches to watch ‘the fastest game on grass’ as fierce rivalries between counties are played out.  Gaelic Football also attracts fans in their thousands keen to watch highly skilled and frenetic exchanges.

Here in Scotland, basketball and ice-hockey are also attracting crowds, and have the added attraction of being significantly more family friendly than football.  Given Andy Murray’s achievements, isn’t it time we had more coverage of the ATP tennis tour?

All it needs is for someone to waken up to the fact that football isn’t cutting the mustard anymore and these continual inquests are little more than self-indulgent exercises that help feed the myth that Scotland is a footballing power.

The sooner people realise we reached our footballing zenith decades ago the better – it’s time to move on.

Tuesday will probably see a full house at Hampden and massive media exposure to boot.  If, however, Scotland do not win then it could well be the last full house at the national stadium for some considerable time.

The media will have a decision to make when it becomes clear that Scotland has blown another chance to qualify for a major football final.  Do they continue to flog a dead horse or do they finally admit defeat and turn their attentions to other less psychologically damaged sports?

Sadly, I think I already know the answer.