Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nacho Nogo

Ooh, aah, Nacho Novo's Da?
Should we welcome Nacho Novo into the Scotland team with open arms?

He's lived here for years. His family is Scottish. He would give George Burley an option that he's sorely lacking at the moment.

But. But. I'm not convinced. National teams should have an emotional attachment. The ties with the native land have to be powerful enough - you have to want to play for the team like the fans do. International football, and the fans who slavishly follow it, deserves nothing less.

In the Novo case how could it look like anything more than an aging player accepting second best after missing out on his proper team? I am aware that some people have said accepting Novo into the Scotland team would be mature, would be a sign of a grown up, multicultural Scotland. Hmmm.

I think it would take a lot more than Nacho playing at Hampden for Scotland to grow up.

And I don't hold with the argument that a lot of players with less connection than Novo have played before. Many of us have always felt uneasy with the Craig Brown tactic of scouring family trees. Novo may be the logical conclusion of that pattern but it is a trend we should be moving away from not embracing.

There is also the question of other players doing similar things with other countries. Inescapably we think of James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady. Without agreeing or disagreeing with those two I would say that they at least have made the decision early in their careers and obviously feel a strong emotional attachment with Ireland. That in itself is nothing new - as Pat Crerand proved in his autobiography when he claimed that playing for Scotland was always second best.

I also feel that widespread adoption of the passport rule will severely undermine the international game. Countries that can afford to ship in the best young talent from around the world would suddenly have the very best players qualifying for their national teams. That is wrong.

International football is already creaking, despised by the money that runs football. If Novo was given a Scotland cap would the game not descend into the farce of beach volleyball where Brazil's second best players can jump ship to the well known beach volleyball centre that is Georgia?

The modern games treats fans badly enough, to allow international football to be further devalued would be an insult too far.

Paddy Crerand: Never Turn the Other Cheek