Football: Tartan Army's unbridled joy baffles Paris

ANDY MARTIN At Large In France
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The Independent Online
IT IS 4.30 am. A grey, chilly dawn. It is raining. You might, at this stage of the game, expect Scottish supporters to be echoing the poet Paul Verlaine: "It is raining in my heart as it rains on the city." But no. In their hearts there are no clouds and the sun is shining. Through the night, from the Balzar, in the Rue des Ecoles, to the Bonaparte, off the Boulevard St-Germain, at the Irish Pub in the Rue St Andre des Arts, the Scots have been singing and carousing and celebrating through the night.

"You'd think they'd just won the World Cup," said my incredulous friend, Virginie.

This is the mystery that baffled Parisians have been trying to fathom out in the wake of the opening match: what makes the Scots so happy?

What is their secret? Every word the French apply to the Scots - joyeux, gaillard and fetard - tips the hat to their high spirits. Even the Brazilians have been amazed at this carnival-like attitude and have been going about cheering "Viva la Scotia!" Here is a selection of theories, hypotheses, and groundless speculation on this phenomenon currently on offer in bars and cafes around the capital.

1. The Scots are not that happy. It's just that the Parisians are so chronically gloomy, angst-ridden and neurotic that the Scots are bound to appear wildly ecstatic by comparison. Admittedly, that was my idea. "That is an insupportable slur on Paris," said Virginie. "Anyway, what's wrong with being depressed?" She pointed out, as if to prove her case, that, according to recent statistics, violence against women always goes up during major sporting contests in France.

2. The Scottish view, put to me immediately after the match: "We scored two, didn't we? If we can only work out how to get the ball in the opponents' net every time, there'll be no stopping us."

3. Few Scots actually noticed the result. Inebriation certainly helped. I was on the square in front of the Hotel de Ville, scene of revolutionary mayhem in the past, and now the site of a giant screen for the great unticketed. So I can testify that, by the time the match kicked off at 5.30 local time, a considerable number of supposed "spectators", having been celebrating all day, were incapable of spectating, or anything else. They had been propped up against statues and lamposts by kindly comrades, then tended to come round after the match was over, refreshed and raring to go for another round of festivities.

4. Shades of William Wallace. It was a glorious defeat. They fought bravely. The Brazilians are technically superior in terms of sheer firepower, but the Scots are a match for them in spirit, especially before and after the match.

5. More cynical: "The aspiration levels of the Scots were low in the first place. They'd be happy with anything this side of outright massacre."

6. Deep: "It's a clear case of the victim identifying with the victor," observed my psychologist friend Denis - also responsible for observation No 5 - as he watched Scots parading about in Brazilian shirts. "It's an established psychological pattern. Although I wouldn't say it to a Scotsman."

7. The half-French half-Scottish view: "The Scots are the Brazilians of Britain. They know how to have a good time." I only know one man who is half-French and half-Scottish, so I'm not sure if this would apply across what must be a fairly small board. There was no doubt where Philippe's sympathies lay yesterday, but he will be torn if it ever comes to a showdown between Scotland and France.

Meanwhile, his dedication to the game must be put in doubt in any case, since he has taken to hanging out in those bars which have explicitly prohibited screening any matches. Why? "Are you stupid? Because that's where all the women will be."

8. Le Monde (which has come round to football in a big way so that it heaps scorn on anyone who dares to heap scorn on it): "It's a political thing. The Scots are not here to watch the football, they are here to assert their independence from England. The Tartan Army (a phrase which even the French have picked up and taken to their hearts) is nothing other than the Scottish nation abroad. And France is their natural ally (and business partner) in the struggle with the common enemy."

9. Taxi driver: "Mais, ils ne font que ca!" Translation: the Scots are here to party come what may. The taxi driver automatically assumed I was the worse for drink, too.

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