|Image: The Mirror|
Ever since the furore that followed the rioting Rangers fans in Manchester and the subsequent penalisations of UEFA for the bigoted chanting of their fans, the other half of the Old Firm have decided enough is enough.
No longer could the Celtic fans sit and watch Rangers take all the glory as the top bigots in Scotland, and no longer could they sit silent on top of their angelic hill, casting furrowed glances and looks of disapproval towards the Gers brigade, because, as we all know, Celtic fans are as good as gold.
Celtic fans support ONLY their team. They love the green and white so much that nothing else matters and they cast out bigotry in all its forms. Yes, Celtic fans are the idols of all decent football fans in Scotland; they are the role models, the perfect footie fan!
This is of course, utter bullshit.
This week, UEFA has charged Celtic FC with “the displaying of an offensive banner and setting off of fireworks by fans” during last Thursday’s match with Udinese. Celtic say they have already imposed a lifetime ban on the fan they say was responsible for the banner and assaulting a steward at the Stadio Friuli, and have stood down from appealing against the £12,700 fine for “illicit chanting” by some of their fans.
Celtic FC and its fans have long had an established relationship with the Republic of Ireland, and in particular, republican paramilitary groups such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army, otherwise known as the IRA. Or to you and me, terrorists.
It’s not just schoolboys singing out songs they don’t understand, for in the right pubs before the games you can meet hard core republicans who have come over from Ireland for the game; they attend the matches like everyone else. And at functions attended by the players and staff, pro-IRA songs are often sung.
I remember attending a joint function between a Renfrewshire Celtic Supporters Club and one from Belfast. During the night, which was attended by a couple of high profile players of the day, several Lisbon Lions, and the then Chairman, Jack McGinn, the song The Boys of the Old Brigade was openly sung with a band, and McGinn himself sat proudly at the top table joining in with the verse:
Oh, son, I see in memories few
Of far off distant days
When being just a lad like you
I joined the IRA.
This is the point that Celtic fans will scream innocence: “It’s just a minority at the away games that do it!” Even their manager was quoted as saying:
“It is extremely disappointing that the otherwise excellent behaviour of the vast majority of Celtic supporters, and the reputation of the club, has been undermined in this way, by the actions of a handful of people. There is a rogue element who keep tarnishing the name of the club.”
Chairman Peter Lawwell added:
“These people are not Celtic supporters and we will weed them out. We are embarrassed. The vast majority of Celtic supporters are positively supporting Celtic. We’ve gained a magnificent reputation around Europe and this, unfortunately, is an embarrassment that we can’t tolerate and will eliminate.”
But the fact is it’s not. To support Celtic is to be part of it. To attend home games you have to endure pro-IRA and anti-Protestant supporters. To attend away games, particularly Eurpoean ones, you have to jump through hoops, so if tickets for these matches are getting to anyone else not affiliated with supoprters clubs, then something is far wrong. What is actually happening is that Lawwell doesn’t want to publicly admit that supportes groups are rife with it.
The minority is NOT those that sing these songs or hold these beliefs. The true minority, just as it is with Rangers fans, are the few who have to endure it; those who hate the tarnished brush of bigotry painted on them because of the majority.
These are the reasons I handed back my season ticket to Celtic FC in 2000—I couldn’t sit and listen to the bigoted and vile comments that spewed from the stands each Saturday afternoon any longer. I have witnessed to my own eyes and ears, 60,000 Celtic fans belting out songs that include the lines “dirty Orange bastard” and “Up the RA” and have done so while inside Celtic Park.
It is NOT just the fans at away games, that’s only where it is worse.
I’m not alone in this either. Peter Broughan, the Scottish film producer and one-time drinking partner of mine, wrote an article in 1998 for the Glasgow Herald about the shame he felt at being a Celtic fan, when fans on board the flight to a European match (which the players were also on), sang a song glorifying the terrorist atrocity in Omagh, which saw 29 people slaughtered and 200 injured at the hands of the so called “Real IRA”. This occurred only two weeks after the bombing. I still have the cutout if you want to read it.
So well done Celtic for proving that you’re actually the same as your counterparts, Rangers. You both deserve each other, and Scotland deserves neither. We’d be better off without you both.
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