Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Designated Driver?

The shorthand that today's soundbite culture demands insists that it is called the "Andrew Driver Law" but this week's new ruling on international eligibility is about much more than the Hearts winger.

Any holder of a British passport who has spent five years at Scottish schools is now free to play for Scotland.

I have no idea if Andrew Driver wants to play for Scotland or not. He seems to be keeping his options open at the moment issuing a flirtatious 'come and get me' tease to George Burley. Whatever he decides that's not what international should be about.

The rule would also have meant that Joe Baker, as Scottish as they come in all but his international career, would have been able to play for Scotland rather than England.

Many English people spend more than five years at Scottish schools without ever feeling any less English. Many Scots grow up in England but would never consider trading the chance of wearing a navy shirt for the hope of wearing a white one.

How people feel towards their nationality is a complex issue and a personal one. Craig Brown has spoken out against the new rule. The same Craig Brown who took a Who Do You Think You Are? approach to international selection.

Can Craig Brown honestly say that a young guy who has spent his formative years in Scotland is any less Scottish than somebody who has just discovered, courtesy of the SFA, that his grandmother was born in Fife seventy years ago?

The Driver issue and the reactionary meandering of an out of touch old man aside the real benefits of the new rule were shown this week when Islam Feruz was picked for the Scotland Under-17 squad.

Somali born Feruz came to Scotland when he was seven. Now 14, and on Celtic's books, he had this to say on his call up:
I have been very proud to live in Scotland. It's a great country which is now my home and I will be very proud to wear the Scotland jersey.

I would like to thank Celtic for all it has done for me over the last five years.

The club has made sure I have been given great support. I would also like to thank Scotland coach Ross Mathie for giving me this great opportunity.

I will be working hard to do all I can to do my best for Scotland and make the most of this opportunity.
We open our doors to refugees and asylum seekers from across the world. Many of them come as children but we, as an entire society, struggle with issues of assimilation and identity.

Saying to these youngsters that they can play a full and important part in our national game is an incredibly powerful symbol of how modern Scotland can embrace all cultures and welcome people here not with mistrust and racism but with the opportunity to rebuild shattered lives as part of our communities.

As George Burley and Andrew Driver eye each other up like teenagers at the school disco we shouldn't forget that this ruling is about Scotland's continued and welcome move towards becoming a fully functional multicultural society.