Richard Bath: 'Islam Feruz is taking the same route to sporting stardom as Mo Farah'

In the week after Mogadishu-born distance runner Mo Farah's epic double at the European Championships in Barcelona seared his name into the nation's sporting consciousness, here's another Somali name to conjure with: Islam Feruz.

If you haven't heard of him, the 14-year-old is the precocious talent who this week scored goals in successive Nordic Cup games for Scotland Under-17s, rounding off with a hat-trick against the Faroe Islands after earlier scoring against Sweden and Norway.

Feruz will inevitably be the centre of attention when Scotland take on Iceland in the fifth-sixth place play-off today and the Celtic youngster is certainly a rare talent. It is worth remembering, however, that he would never have been here had the situation in his native country not been intolerable. His grandparents were beaten so badly in one raid by bandits in their lawless home town of Kismaylo that they died soon afterwards, and by the time Islam's mother and stepfather fled to London when he was just five, the rogue nation had descended into a state of perpetual anarchy.

Almost a decade later the pupil of Hillhead High, a Glasgow school boasting children from 34 different countries, is taking the same route to sporting stardom as London-based Farah. Both faced racism and alienation in a strange country, but both were lucky enough to find teachers and mentors who recognised their talent - in the case of Farah it was his sports-mad teacher Alan Wilkinson, while 10-year-old Feruz was discovered in a scratch kickabout at Castlemilk Sports Centre by Celtic scout John Simpson.

But where English athletics has a history of racial diversity and of adopting blow-ins from Zola Budd to Linford Christie, Scottish football is an altogether different case. Indeed, Feruz probably wouldn't have become the first asylum seeker to represent Scotland at football had it not been for the intervention of the late Tommy Burns. It was the former Celtic manager whose personal intervention almost certainly saved the Feruz family from being deported back to Somalia, a fact that in turn led to his first senior outing in a Celtic shirt as a substitute in the Tommy Burns memorial game at Parkhead last year.

Feruz should also say a small prayer of thanks for the new rule that was introduced earlier this year which allows players who have been educated for five years in one of the four home nations to represent that country, even if they have no bloodline.

The young Celtic player has said that he is proud to wear the shirt of the country he now calls home, that he welcomes the opportunity to begin to repay his debt to a country that fed him and clothed him when he was in danger and in need.Most importantly, after spending most of his sentient life here he clearly sees himself as Scottish and clearly wants to play for Scotland above all else.

For all that it sometimes irks, anyone who remembers the case of Joe Baker of Hibs - brought up in Motherwell and with a strong Lanarkshire accent, he was born in Liverpool and forced to play for the land of his birth rather than of his heart - will know that it is better that ten mock-Jocks with a grandparent born in Gretna Green get to challenge for a Scotland cap than that one genuine Scot like Feruz gets left behind. We might not like Aiden McGeady's decision to pledge himself to Ireland, but if he feels more Irish than Scottish, so be it. Nationality is where the heart is, not what it says on your birth certificate, or even what other people tell you it is.

Graham Henry's great masterplan when he was Wales rugby coach - to bring over five hugely talented young foreign players on scholarships and sign them up for Wales after five years in the school system - shows that there will always be those who are interested in bending the rules to breaking point, and we must remain vigilant. Yet the tawdriness of ruses like Henry's is made all the more stark by the sight of Feruz banging in goals while wearing a Scotland shirt, a thing of beauty.

Whether or not the youngster goes on to play for Scotland will be interesting, but largely irrelevant. He is being talked up a storm by even the most knowledgeable and sceptical of Celtic fans, but then many a precocious talent has come to nought when confronted by the physicality and speed of the senior game. The naysayers need look no further than the most over-hyped teenager of all time, Freddie Adu, to appreciate how often talent proves to be a chimera when it hits the brick wall of manhood, and Celtic will do well to go out of their way to ensure he isn't overhyped or over-exposed too early in his career.

Happily, it seems that the operation to gently puncture the bubble may already be underway, with Ross Mathie at pains to point out that he is not a one-man show. "Islam is a fantastic talent and his free kick against the Faroe Islands was a great goal," said the Scotland Under-17s coach, "but he is the first person to always acknowledge the support he receives from his team-mates."

In many ways Feruz has already made a difference. For all those kids of Asian descent in Glasgow who perceive themselves to be unwelcome in what remains a white game - why else would the numbers of Asian kids playing football in Glasgow remain so stubbornly low? - the emergence of Feruz into a largely monochrome Scotland set-up will send a signal that can't be misinterpreted. Feruz may be the first child of asylum seekers to play for Scotland, but as the country becomes more multi-cultural, he is unlikely to be the last.

As for Feruz, he's still got a part to play.He can keep his feet on the ground, keep scoring goals and keep bearing in mind that, like Farah, becoming world-class is as much a state of mind as a product of raw talent. If he can do that and fulfil his talent, then, like Farah, he will have more than repaid his debt by breaking a mould that was long out of date.

The necessity for Johnnie Beattie to go under the knife has thrown up some fascinating quandaries for Scotland rugby coach Andy Robinson, not least because there's genuine uncertainty about when the Scotland No 8 will be back playing. If it's November, as he hopes, then Beattie's involvement in the Six Nations won't be threatened. If it's the full six months, as the medics fear, then Beattie's involvement in the Six Nations - and ultimately the World Cup - will be touch and go.

Robinson's back-up plan, which will be revealed when Scotland play New Zealand, South Africa and Samoa in the Autumn, will be fascinating.

Will he move Kelly Brown from the blindside position, risking the balance in the back row? Will he turn to the old warrior Simon Taylor as a stopgap, as a man who's been there and done it? Or will he ask untested but talented youngster Richie Vernon to step into the breach?