Tartan Army praised for displaying English values

22 February 2012

Tartan Army praised for displaying English values

Professor Hugh O’Donnell

European football commentators believe the Tartan Army has become the “quintessence of football” associating it with “ideal” sporting values historically associated with England.

Those are the conclusions contained in the chapter ‘Scottish Football Fans: Hame and Away’, written by multi-linguist Professor Hugh O’Donnell, who has personally translated and analysed newspaper articles from more than 10 different European countries.

Professor O’Donnell – who learned basic Macedonian and Icelandic in order to complete the project – compared Scottish coverage of the Tartan Army with articles printed across Europe during the national team’s Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. His work was published in a new book on European football followers released in Sweden this month.

His chapter quotes at length from several translations of articles where the Tartan Army is described as “incredibly popular” in Norway; “highly fun-loving” in Iceland, and the “quintessence of football” in Italy.

Professor O’Donnell discovered Scottish writers see the Tartan Army as an anarchic home for nostalgic male working class identity.

But he revealed the picture across the continent was very different, with European media elevating the Tartan Army to the level of “great ambassadors for sport”.

He said: “In Scotland, most people know what the Tartan Army is all about, but across Europe there is a totally different interpretation.

“While at home the story is rooted in the history of Scotland and in its relationship with England, the European version removes the Tartan Army from all of that and gives it a quite different function - that of representing ideal fandom.

“Scottish fans’ well-documented fraternising with the local fans is not seen as working-class solidarity as it is in Scotland, but as an expression of commitment to “quintessential” sporting values: given the insistence on “fair play” these are in fact synonymous with the Tartan Army’s polar opposite – historic English aristocratic sporting values!”

Professor Hugh O’Donnell speaks fluent or near fluent Spanish, Catalan, German French, Italian and Portuguese. He has studied a wide range of other languages at a variety of different levels. The book in which his chapter appears, ‘We Love to Hate Each Other. Mediated Football Fan Culture’, was published by Nordicom this month.

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