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Once a Scot, always a Scot

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In some parts of the world, a few die-hard hockey players share their passion, even going so far as to create clubs. From Africa to America, through Europe and Asia, focus on these little-known countries of underwater hockey. Eighth episode with Scotland !

In the most northern part of the United Kingdom, there is Scotland, a British territory since 1707. Historically, its people have always shown great patriotism. A pride that is regularly expressed through sport.

In 1997, the Scottish men’s national team was invited to the European Championships in Reims. The team finished fourth behind France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, whose team was made up entirely of English players. “Many European teams were starting out, such as Italy and Germany. Spain were not as strong as they are today either. I don’t think we’d finish as high now“, said Tim Dale, former Scotland captain. This excellent performance remains Scotland’s national team only achievement in a competition organised by the CMAS.

Scotland : a provider of talent

The highest body in underwater sport only recognises the British entity and not the Scottish Federation. This means that Scotland cannot compete as an independent nation. “It’s a shame but I understand. It would be nice if players who couldn’t reach the UK national team could be invited to international competitions as Scotland.” However, the country’s most talented players still have the opportunity to play for the powerful Team GB. Tim was the first Scottish player to play for British national team. He also coached the Elite women’s team at the 2018 worlds in Quebec. In total, around 20 players from Scotland have made it to this squad. The most recent examples are Lauren Aisbitt and Michelle McWhinnie at the 2019 European Championships, Helen LeMar in 2017 and Danielle Ritchie at the 2016 worlds. At the last Youth Worlds in 2019, Scotland also had two members in U24 – Martin John-Turner and Maddy Walker.

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“The last time the Elite Girls won the World Championship, three or four of them came from Orkney”

While Scotland cannot participate in official competitions as a nation, they have found a way to be able to represent their country : the European Club Championships. A competition taken very seriously by the Scots. “We do three to four training camps a year with the best Scottish players to determine who goes to the Euroclubs.” Players from all over the country and particularly from Orkney, a northern archipelago. While it may seem isolated from the rest of the country, the club has dominated the Scottish league for the past decade, as well as providing three of Scotland’s last four British international players (Aisbitt, LeMar and Ritchie). “The last time the Elite Girls won the World Championship, three or four of them came from Orkney” adds Tim Dale. The rise of this atypical club is partly due to one man: Alistair Skene. A teacher who got his students involved in underwater hockey. “The local newspapers wrote about it, as they would have done about any other sport.” It was a welcome publicity that allowed Octopush to grow on the archipelago as well as having the success it has had and continues to have.

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Prior to Orkney, national supremacy, varied between several clubs. In the early 2000s, Aberdeen and Inverness competed for the Scottish league title, followed by the Edinburgh era and finally Orkney. During these 20 years of competition, Scotland has regularly had teams in Britain’s major tournament, the Nautilus. Glasgow and Edinburgh in their time and Orkney until this year (2021), have all been in the British D1. “We’ve always had a top team and I think if we were outside the BOA (British Octopush Association) we wouldn’t be as strong. We would have a dominant team but we wouldn’t be progressing.” Scotland only has nine clubs, two of which are university clubs, so the opportunity to participate in the Nautilus allows for a larger and more varied range of opponents to play against. Scotland’s emancipation from the British federation does not seem to be an option.

Scotland is an integral part of British underwater hockey. Providing talent for the various national teams for many years. Everything seems to be in order to keep it that way. However, the European club championships will be back and the pride of being able to represent their country in international competition will come with it. Two territories in one, a model that applies to Scotland, but also to Wales…

 

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  1. Pingback: Scots toujours ! – UWH News – Le média du Hockey Subaquatique

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