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Why do Scotland call England 'The Auld Enemy'? World's oldest international football rivalry explained

15:00 BST 18/06/2021
Andy Robertson Harry Kane Scotland England
It's referenced in 'Flower of Scotland' and the likes of Kenny Dalglish still revel in past battles, but what's it about?

Scotland returned to a major tournament for the first time in over two decades when they qualified for Euro 2020 and as fate would have it, they were drawn in a group with England.

If the excitement of playing on the big stage against Europe's elite wasn't enough, the Scots had a highlight game in the group stage against a team that has come to be known to them as 'The Auld Enemy'.

So why are England known as 'The Auld Enemy' to Scotland and the Tartan Army? Goal brings you all the details.

Why do Scotland call England 'The Auld Enemy'?

Historical enmities, stemming from centuries of socio-political conflict, are the chief reason Scotland fans describe England as 'The Auld Enemy' (auld meaning 'old') when the nations face off in football matches.

While Scotland and England have been constituent nations of the same United Kingdom since the 18th century, the history of Britain is pockmarked with wars between the Scots and the English.

That bloody rivalry has been transposed to the football pitch since the first meeting of Scotland and England in 1872 - officially the sport's first ever international match in the world.

So, as well as being Scotland's oldest rival in political terms, England is also literally their oldest rival in football.

Scotland's famous national anthem Flower of Scotland makes explicit reference to the age-old rivalry with England.

In fact, the entire thrust of the emotion-rousing song is pride in beating the English. Specifically, the song refers to the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, when Robert the Bruce's army defeated that of King Edward II.

Recalling those historical enmities, the anthem concludes: "Those days are past now / And in the past / they must remain / But we can still rise now / And be the nation again / That stood against him (against who?) / Proud Edward's Army / And sent him homeward / To think again."

The fierceness of the rivalry between Scotland and England was sustained by the fact that the teams met on an annual basis from their first encounter in 1872 up until 1989, facing off in the British Home Championship among other competitions.

The two sides have faced each other over 100 times and England have fared better overall, but Scotland are always capable of upsetting their rivals.

Ahead of the Euro 2020 meeting between the sides, Kenny Dalglish reflected on the rivalry, telling the Daily Record: "It was something you always wanted to do when you were growing up. All you ever saw in those days on television was the Home Internationals. So when we played England, everyone who was Scottish wanted to beat them.

"To score against England gives everybody pleasure and obviously if you’re the one who has done it you’re going to enjoy it."

Dalglish also suggested that the rivalry is just as important to England players and supporters, saying: "The number of times they’ve shown Gazza’s goal from 1996 on TV [before the England vs Scotland Euro 2020 game] just shows how much the English think about it.

"It’s just as big for them as it is for us. If our English-based boys get a result they’ll take it back to their dressing rooms and never let their team-mates forget it for the next year."

Meetings have not been as frequent since the 1990s, but the competitiveness remains, particularly for Scotland fans, who are usually keen to land a blow on their neighbours to the south.

Scotland are England's oldest rivals too and games between the two continue to stir passions, with the Scots among the Three Lions' three main rivals, alongside Germany and Argentina.

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