Scotland vs England: what is the ‘Auld Enemy’ rivalry? Scottish support during Qatar World Cup 2022 explained

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As England and Scotland prepare to face off in both rugby union and football matches in 2023, here is all you need to know about how England came to be known as the ‘Auld Enemy’

As the new year begins, so does the chance for more sporting glory with what could be an explosive Six Nations campaign just ahead, more World Cups to prepare for and an anniversary football fixture between Scotland and England celebrating 150 years since the first Heritage match.

This is a conflict sure to once again rile up the inevitable feuding and rivalry between the two countries, and it doesn’t even take a match in which they both feature to reignite the heated competition. The antagonism will happily be fired up at any given point, with the recent World Cup being one notable example.

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England once again failed to ‘bring it home’ after being knocked out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the quarter-finals. Their run came to an end at the hands of the incandescent French, who ultimately lost out to Argentina and their talisman, Lionel Messi. Tears flowed inconsolably down the faces of those previously chanting ‘It’s coming home’. However, only a few miles up the road, tears were flowing for quite a different reason.

Harry Kane following England’s exit from the World CupHarry Kane following England’s exit from the World Cup
Harry Kane following England’s exit from the World Cup | Getty Images

Exclamations of resounding joy and jubilation could be heard from pubs and living rooms across Scotland, when the Tottenham star failed to convert the second penalty and England were ultimately knocked out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. So why were the Scots, whose own team failed to reach the tournament proper, so happy to see the back of Gareth Southgate and his troops?

Why does Scotland not support England?

It’s hard to ignore the historical complication of war when discussing the rivalry between Scotland and ‘The Auld Enemy’ but surely we are not still harking back to the days of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce?

Well, while those names may not be mentioned every time the two sides meet, the bitterness is apparently still very much there. According to Goal’s writer, Ryan Kelly, “the fierceness of the rivalry between Scotland and England was sustained by the fact that they teams met on an annual basis from first encounter in 1872 up until 1989”, with the 150th anniversary of this Heritage match taking place in September 2023.

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Nowadays when asking ardent Scottish fans why they are not supporting their geographical neighbours, the reasons could be perceived as pettiness. In fact, the general consensus is the enmity is more in defiant stubbornness than for any historical revenge.

So to discover why there is such horror at the idea of supporting the ‘Auld Enemy’ and to get to the root of the schadenfreude, where better to ask around than the local pub?

Ardent Scottish supporter, Martin, answered the question by saying: “You don’t ask a Celtic fan why they’re not supporting Rangers, you don’t ask an Arsenal fan if they’re supporting Tottenham this weekend.”

Echoing her fellow countryman, another supporter, Jana, was asked her opinion in conjunction with the recent World Cup, and responded by saying despite not having an interest in football, there is still a flame within that rises whenever England are mentioned:

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I don’t really care for football anyway, but something in me as a Scottish person will never allow me to support England, even though I am technically half English and have a lot of English family. Although surface level it is tongue in cheek and more in jest, it amuses me to be like ‘f*** the English’. Deep down I could never (support them), it’s some deep rooted patriotism - even our anthem is against the English, send them homeward.”

As this supporter points out, whenever any of Scotland’s national sport teams come out to play, they are constantly reminded of their eternal feud with their southern neighbours when the bagpipes start playing and thousands of fans start belting out the national anthem, ‘Flower of Scotland’.

While the gruelling stories of England’s colonial past and their role in a continued rift between England and Scotland cannot be brused aside, nowadays it seems it comes down to a mere point of obstinacy.


Who do Scotland support instead?

So then the question begs, if Scotland are not playing, who do they support? Sadly, when it comes to sports like football or cricket, it’s not wholly unsurprising if the Scots are not featuring, but this arguably makes the desire for England to fail even stronger.

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When asking around the nearby pub who the locals would support at a tournament in which their own country didn’t feature, one said: “Sounds bad, but I would be supporting anyone who was against England, as there is such a rivalry there.”

In fact, this was an exceptionally common theme with this answer the most popular to the aforementioned question, as the above chart shows.

Our friend Martin, however, said they would be supporting Australia for the fact that their team had a number of players who feature in the Scottish Premiership, as well as other players with Scottish backgrounds - including the irrepressible Jason ‘The Cumdog’ Cummings. When asked about support for the World Cup, Wales was unsurprisingly another top candidate for Scots, given that Rob Page’s side were paired with the Three Lions in Group B.

As the World Cup progressed, it appeared that Scotland, like many other nations, veered more into a ‘support-the-underdog’ approach, with Morocco coming up high on people’s lists and one fan saying: “I felt good for Morocco as they were the first African team in the semi finals.” As expected, the overwhelming anti-England consensus continued until their quarter-final exit.

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And, with 2023 offering a whole host of new opportunities to revisit this famous ‘Auld’ rivalry, fans will wait in eager anticipation for the commencement of the Six Nations as well as the historic Heritage football match later on this year.

When are Scotland and England next playing each other?

The next time the two sides will meet on the sports field will come at the Six Nations with Scotland travelling to Twickenham on Saturday 4 February. They will then come together on the football field for the 150th anniversary Heritage match on Tuesday 12 September a Hampden Park, Glasgow.

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