Why do I get so excited when Andy Murray wins at tennis?  An accident of birth means that he was born less than 20 miles from me, so does his success somehow validate me, and other Scots?  I may actually have more in common with other sportsmen and women, but location of origin is usually the first thing we look for.  If an athlete is from Scotland, or more specifically Glasgow, where I live, or Airdrie, where I grew up, then I feel some kind of kinship, even though I have never met them.

The same kind of tribal loyalties have always been present in team sports, especially football, where the team members were traditionally drawn from the community, and literally did represent them on the sporting field.  How does that square then with sporting teams which are comprised of players from everywhere BUT the location of the stadium? How can Manchester United or City fans feel at all proud of their respective teams, when rather than recruit local talent, the foreign owners have drafted in expensive ringers, just so they can win matches?  The fact that the stadium is located in, and the team is named after Manchester cannot surely engender the same empathy from their supporters.  Van Persie scoring a goal cannot possibly infer that the supporters are anything like him, when none of the team are Mancunians.  The fans may well be, but the fans are not playing in any league competition.  The Celtic team which famously was the first from Britain to win the European Cup in 1967, was made up entirely from players who grew up within a 20 mile radius of Celtic Park.  They were literally drawn from the community, and therefore represented them.  The validation, if there was any to be had, was deserved.

So when Glasgow born, Scottish, British, European (in order of proximity) sportspeople perform well, can I really take this as any kind of affirmation that people like me are better than people like them? When I was a kid, I would write my address on my school jotter as Mull, Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland, Britain, Europe, Earth, The Universe.  It appears now, that I was also noting the correct order in which to display my loyalties.  

Centuries ago (and even still now) armies would battle to prove which nation was in the right. Imagine though that I believed that 2 plus 2 equals 5, but you insisted the correct answer was four.  How absurd would it then be for me to suggest settling the matter by arm-wrestling?  Of course being better at one unrelated thing, cannot mean I have won the argument.  Celtic winning against Rangers (or vice-versus) cannot in any way imply or infer that either side has won the moral high ground or demonstrated superiority in anything but a game of football.  This is especially true, when none of the players on the pitch are drawn from either community.  All it can possibly mean is that our expensively assembled players from all over the world were better at kicking a leather bag of air around a pitch, within a defined 90 minutes than yours were.  Furthermore, we might not win next time.

So well done Andy Murray.  I am very proud of you, even though there is no logical reason for being so.

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Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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