What Scotland should learn from Iceland about football – Kenny MacAskill

John McGinn vies with Russia's Magomed Ozdoev during a 2-1 defeat. Worse was to follow against Belgium (Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
John McGinn vies with Russia's Magomed Ozdoev during a 2-1 defeat. Worse was to follow against Belgium (Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
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I was at the Scotland-Belgium game on Monday with an old friend who’ll be 90 in a few months’ time.

Now resident in America, he’d seen many of the glory games in the old stadium, as well as even playing in matches on Lesser Hampden. It was a painful night’s spectating, with effort and commitment unable to match skill and artistry on an entirely different level.

It’s not the manager’s fault or the players, all did their best. It’s a systemic issue but unlike others I don’t believe that it’s the SFA to blame, though I’ve no doubt improvements can be made.

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The contrast with the success of Iceland on the football field forgets that there it’s a been a governmental and indeed national campaign to invest in football.

Sport struggles in Scotland and until sport is seen as pivotal on many fronts including health, well-being and even the economy, it’ll remain in the lower leagues of political priorities.

That applies to the public as much as politicians. Sport can’t be a personal gym membership but has to be a national strategy.

Comparisons with the likes of Ireland, Wales and even Croatia forget that, in these countries, no team is bigger than the national one.

In Scotland, the club game at elite level dominates. The size of crowds in the stands masking the paucity of native talent on the park, football becoming a spectator, rather than participatory, sport for many, and an expensive one at that.

The way forward has to be ground up and for the collective good, delivered through the national organisation for the benefit of all, not just the fortunes of individual clubs.

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