In Scotland we have a saying, ‘A.B.E.’. This stands for ‘Anyone But England’. A.B.E. is not a mentality held by every resident in Scotland. There are in fact, despite some aggressive rural movements, some English people hiding amongst us. This term applies mainly to sports, and most commonly to football (soccer), where petty bigotry and racism is a staple part of the game. Due to Scotland’s deplorable showing at almost every sporting event besides curling and beer pong, we tend to get jealous of the English and their successes, regardless of how meager they actually are. We don’t like to see them win. At anything.
The Clachan Arms, Achnafachel. June 2006. England reached the quarter finals of the World Cup. They were playing Portugal. Scotland didn’t qualify for the World Cup. We, one of the founding nations of the sport of football, failed to make it into the top thirty-two teams in the world. But being a nation of football fans, we had to unite together and support someone. That team happened to be A.B.E.
Now, I grew up in an area which people don’t tend to leave. They tend to stay in the village, have kids in the village, die in the village. But the jobs in maintaining the quality of life in the village usually pay reasonably well. So the young guys have money. Enough money in fact to make a trip to the nearest town every few days to buy a football shirt for whatever team England is playing against. During the 2006 World Cup, the boys managed to find a Sweden shirt, a Paraguay shirt and even a Trinidad and Tobago shirt for the group stage matches. Wearing the colors of countries they couldn’t point to on a map, they would strut into the pub proudly declaring to everyone inside that they were not supporters of that country, but that they hated the English more than anyone else. As Scotsmen, it was their only chance to win at something football related.
Their problem came when England met Portugal in the Quarter finals. A lot was riding on this game for the English. They had reminisced about their triumph in 1966 for as long as they possibly could. The commentators had been wheeling their geriatric victory out at every opportunity and force feeding it to the viewers at home. In this particular game it took the commentators thirteen seconds to mention 1966. Their words were met with a resounding “Fuck off you English cunts!” by a roomful of drunken, bitter Scots. But the boys in the Clachan Arms needed a Portugal shirt to visualize their disdain.
When they got to the local town on the day of the match, the sports shop had sold out. Clearly because this idea of playful racism was shared by other local people and the shop had not foreseen such prejudice in their patrons. The boys didn’t know what to do. They understood that merely walking into the bar clad in a Scotland shirt or a red t-shirt would not be enough to prove their inherent, uninformed hatred for the English. But as they trudged back to their van, they passed a costume shop. And they had an idea.
Five minutes before kick-off, the doors of the Clachan Arms swung open like a western saloon. The two boys walked through the door. The bustling, eager pub fell silent and all eyes looked away from the TV screen and towards them. The boys held their heads high as they strutted through the pub. They were wearing ponchos, sombreros, fake moustaches and each carrying a nylon strung acoustic guitar. They arrived at the bar and ordered two Coronas. With Lemon. An elderly gentleman looked them up and down as he turned away from the screen.
“What the fuck have you boys come as?” he asked.
The boys looked at each other, taking in their image.
“We’re Portuguese,” they said in unison.
“You’re fucking Mexican!”
“I know,” said the shorter one, “we just didn’t know what Portuguese people looked like.”
That’s a true story.