My Sporting Weekend – the cup draw

Back in the days when my own Bonnie Scotland were qualifying for major football tourneys the draw was a simpler affair.

Sixteen teams took just a half hour to draw, almost as quickly as it would take for the Scots to exit the competition.

Probably because we drew Brazil but probably too because we get vertigo when we scale any heights.

Scotland are doing their best not to qualify for a European Championships 2020 which are almost impossible not to qualify for.

And our fate will be sealed in March via the play-offs.

The carrot being dangled after the bloated draw in Romania www.romaniatourism.com yesterday offers up the prospect of facing the Auld Enemy England.

Maybe best if we didn’t make it then.

But if we do then we’ll also face Croatia www.croatia.ie and the Czech Republic www.czechtourism.com. Ouch!

One of the great curios about travelling is immersing yourself in the sporting culture of a country.

On my recent pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina Medjugorje, what’s your story? I was struck by the amount of Croatian flags and Luca Modric tops.

The only thing more ubiquitous than the little Croatia captain was Our Lady.

And that’s when I hit upon the marketing idea… statues of Mary in a Croatia top. Don’t tell anyone!

The good, and very holy, people of Medjugorje, though living in B&H, pledge their loyalties to Croatia.

As did the Scots, Welsh and Irish when England faced Croatia in the semi-finals of the World Cup last year.

It is a Celtic brotherhood which sees you support the other in the very rare circumstances that England are out.

As with Scotland in West Germany in 1974 and Argentina, and Wales at France 2016.

When we cheered on Wales (and to our shame the English in our party shouted loudest) in of all places www.myswitzerland.com the Swiss Alps… Swhisskey on the rocks.

Only for Portugal www.visitportugal.com to beat them… on their way to winning the whole damn thing.

The Portuguese are just as passionate, if not more so about their football.

And celebrated long into the night in the Interlaken Turkish kebab shop.

The Portuguese love of football was conveyed to me from the off by one of the best hosts I’ve had anywhere.

The peerless Jose who relayed to us that the Portuguese dictator Salazar had kept the poor down through the Three Fs: Football, Fatima and Fado.

And just to test him The Scary One happened to mention that she wasn’t the biggest fan of Jose Mourinho or Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose’s heroes.

If you want an idea of just how idolised Cristiano is in his native Portugal there is a statue to him in his native island of Madeira.

Although it looks nothing like him.

The image of him in Fatima Secret Portugal is more like it.

On a beach towel on a stand among all the statues of Our Lady outside the house of Maria, the niece of the last Little Shepherd.

And is it any coincidence that the most successful country in football history has a statue of Christ the Redeemer above its most iconic city.

While the greatest club side in the history of the game hail from the oh-so-religious capital of Holy Spain.

I’m getting praying!

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