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Football: Prat's life - in any language.

Byline: Stuart Cosgrove

AS the Johannesburg summit wrestles with the complexities of world poverty, it is reassuring that planet Scotland is pursuing business as usual - arguing over the merits of the term "English prat".

In the week our national football team nervously plans a trip to play the fishermen of the Faroe Islands, it is fitting that our latest political scandal is equally surreal.

Scottish Executive Minister Ross Finnie stands accused of offending the CBI when he labelled their director general, Digby Jones, an "English prat".

The media predictably stoked the flames of what is a pathetic little controversy, and in the case of one paper even went to the ludicrous extent of inviting the Campaign for Racial Equality to criticise Finnie.

Surely the CRE has more important matters to deal with - discussing Sven Goran Eriksson's latest England squad, for example. After a brief period of rehabilitation, Eriksson's pool now includes Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer, the Leeds players who stood trial for racial assault on an Asian youth.

Surely this is the stuff of real racism.

There has never been much doubt that Woodgate and Bowyer are prats. Now it appears they are also English.

It's astonishing that in the face of such flagrant appeasement of real racist behaviour the posh papers have wasted so much energy on the flimsy "English prat" affair.

Only an insecure nation like the Scots could be so easily wrong-footed by such nonsense. Far from being a racist slur on the English people, Finnie's remarks were aimed unambiguously at an individual.

In this case a bombastic business leader who courts controversial attention every time he opens his mouth, and has been widely critical of swathes of Scottish society.

Maybe you can fault Finnie's diplomacy but hardly his grasp on accuracy.

No one in their right mind can doubt that there is such a species as the English prat.

Stop me if this list gets boring - Bob Wilson, Nigel Benn, Emlyn Hughes, Anthony Worral Thompson, Mark Lawrenson, Dale Winton, Alan Ball, Darren Day - I could go on all day.

Earlier this week, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary on the man for whom the term English Prat was originally coined - the football pundit Jimmy Hill.

At the heart of the film was a central question - was Hill a football revolutionary or a buffoon? Or put more simply - a prophet or a prat?

Scotland's trip to the Faroes takes the prat debate into more complicated territory. I cannot think of a time when a Scottish team has approached an important game with such fear and foreboding.

That an island with a smaller population than Tillicoultry can worry Scotland casts enduring shame on our international credentials.

As if you need reminding, the last time we needed to beat the Faroes we succumbed to a humiliating draw.

Not only was our reputation tarnished, we suffered the humiliation of having to watch Matt Elliott be sent off for slapping a local waiter.

As Elliott headed for the dressing room, two words sprung effortlessly to mind - English prat.

Strictly speaking, Matt Elliott is an English prat but he is also a prat with a Scottish granny. A prat who under the current FIFA system can play for Scotland.

And that is the point. Prats are not exclusive to England. Scotland has them in abundance. So when the boss of the CBI tried to turn Finnie's throwaway remarks into a racist slur he was tarnishing the word racism.

To bring this debate to a conclusion, I will happily provide a list of Scottish prats. And guess what? The competition is so great Nicky Campbell isn't even in the top 10.

And to reassure English readers I will happily address their own peculiar national loathing and provide a list of German prats.

Right let's get started - can anyone think of a German prat who readily springs to mind? Or is that tempting fate?
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Sep 5, 2002
Words:650
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