A Country That Hates Celtic?

15077224_Strathclyde Police Kettle Celtic Green Brigade fans  16-03-2013 Gallowgate GlasgowYesterday, I posted an article here about the coming Remembrance Day match at Ross County, where our fans will be under typical scrutiny, and where a single mistimed fart will result in forum threads and headlines beyond count, all of them casting a bad light on the whole support and, indeed, the whole club.

Last night I posted an article over on the CelticBlog about how Kilmarnock has announced that it intends to implement the excellent “Twenty’s Plenty” policy for the fans of all clubs.

With one exception. Celtic fans.

It pisses me off.

A few days ago, I watched a video of Celtic fans being accosted by police at Hamilton, police who took away their banner despite them having broken no law.

What came across most in that video was the sneering, contemptuous attitude of the officers who stopped them.

They couldn’t tell these guys what crime they had committed.

One actually asked a guy his age and then, like a mother talking to a primary school kid, chided him with the words “you’re old enough to know better.”

“Know better than what?” I wanted to scream at the screen.

Know better, perhaps, to think Celtic fans can walk Scottish streets these days without official harassment and intimidation.

Know better, perhaps, than to think we can do that wearing the colours and the crest of our football club.

Our supporters are targets; it’s as simple as that.

Of unscrupulous club pricing policies. Of the police. Of hacks who twist everything our players, officials and even ex-players and officials, say to paint us in the worst possible light.

We’re also the targets of other fans, many of whom enjoy nothing more than when a small minority of our supporters can let them smear our whole club.

Am I gearing up for a chorus of “no-one likes us, we don’t care”?

Absolutely not, and I’ll tell you why.

This kind of treatment is reserved for us only here at home.

For a long time we’ve fiercely guarded our reputation as the world’s best fans, but it’s not enough for some people and it never will be.

Here, at home, we have enemies.

Here, at home, there are people who will never wish us well.

That asks a hard question of us; how do we respond to that?

Do we change our behaviour?

Because that’s what some in our society say we should do.

Republican anthems, no matter how much they are part of the culture many of our fans come from – in the same way as the Orange Walk is part of the culture of those on the other side – these offend some people; therefore why do our fans sing them?

Our banners, likewise, are often sharply political and can cut close to the bone, as some political expression is supposed to.

But why do we bother flying them?

Because we want to offend people? No, no and thrice no.

That it does offend people ought to be neither here nor there to us. There is no law protecting people from being offended, and God forbid there ever will be. We do it because … it’s who we are. The banners and the songs are about where many of us are from, and the psychic and symbiotic connection between that place and our football club is strong, and deep, no matter who might wish otherwise.

We’re here, and we’re staying.

But in order to better “fit in”, do we become subservient?

Get in with the “accepted norm”?

What if the “accepted norm” is a lot of hypocritical bollocks?

When they are forcing poppies onto the jerseys of every club in the land they have some brass neck telling us they want politics out of the sport.

When our political class is pushing national identity – both at the UK level and here in Scotland – at the same time as denying some of our fans theirs, it makes you wonder if you can ever bring yourself to vote again.

And when the media is calling for more passion in the stands but wants to condemn us for the ways in which express it … then the whole idea of conforming is a bit of a joke, isn’t it?

Because you quickly realise that what they really object to is simply the fact of us.

They don’t like that we exist at all.

If, tomorrow, our fans stopped singing Republican songs, if we agreed to wear the poppies, if we stopped flying the tricolour the very likely result of that would be … no change at all. Nothing short of a winding up order would appease these people.

Knowing that, I wonder why we’d even bother to try to?

Outside of Scotland, none of this applies.

Few other clubs have such a circle of friends across the sport.

Away from here, we’re loved and respected and honoured.

Outside of Scotland we get awards and commendations from towns and cities.

Police forces usually greet us like old friends, with the notable exception being the one in Amsterdam which seemed to want to add us to the list of supporters they’ve terrorised from all across Europe.

Outside of Scotland people judge us on who and what we are, rather than as a social group who others want to hammer into a mould that suits their own prejudices.

UEFA might butt heads with us these days but we know they don’t regard our banners and songs as a major issue, and let’s face it, being moralised to by these guys at the moment is a wee bit like being given marital advice by the folk behind the Ashley Madison site.

If they’re so serious about removing politics from sport I look forward to them telling the Home Associations to get the poppies off the shirts pronto.

So yes, outside of Scotland we have few issues to deal with.

We are not loved here.

Some dislike us with an intensity that almost defies reason, and this isn’t confined only to Sevco fans either.

I read the same preachy, anti-Celtic bollocks on websites belonging to clubs all over Scotland.

These people have myriad reasons why they say they dislike us, but in truth I don’t think any of them stand up to scrutiny.

They hate us … just because.

A lot of it has to do with social conditioning I think.

I had a debate with someone I regard very highly recently, over Catholic school education, which he said encouraged social division, without even thinking that diversity is something to celebrate instead of condemn.

I reminded him that it’s those people who say Catholic kids grow up different who are doing most to cement that view, and many are simply mirroring their own bias, by thinking of those kids as if they are.

He amazed me with his almost unconscious prejudice.

He was, apparently, wholly unaware that these schools exist all over Europe; it’s only here in Scotland that they are the subject of such outrageous attitudes, even hate, and when I told him that he was stunned, and said he’d look into the issue.

I don’t know if he will or not.

I only know that growing up here in a country which is so narrow minded and prejudicial has impacted on his ability to rationally analyse these things, and that applies equally to expressions of Irishness and Irish identity, and perhaps even more so.

Celtic’s support is made up of many diverse groups, and a number of them are highly political in their awareness and outlook.

Our club enjoys that when it brings good publicity with it; the Green Brigade have been, deservedly, lauded for their outstanding contributions to Glasgow’s foodbanks, but when they show the same political awareness to highlight their opposition to poppies on our jerseys or choose to exercise their free speech to make a point about the Offensive Behaviour At Football act, one of the most backward pieces of legislation ever conceived, our club looks the other way and treats them like the bad-tempered step child.

I can sympathise with their position in a sense; it wasn’t the Celtic board that passed the OBAF bill; in fact, our club’s stated position is in clear opposition to that legislation.

Additionally, when UEFA hands down a mandate they’ve got no choice but to accept it.

So the apparent inconsistency of their position is, to a certain extent, something that’s been imposed on them.

They do realise how our fans feel about many of these issues, which is why there will be no poppies on the jersey for the second year in a row.

They also supported the fans who were arrested in Amsterdam last year, and the last I heard they were lobbying UEFA angrily, seeking a clear explanation for why we were fined for the fans flying a Palestinian flag.

I’ve heard nothing about how that particular enquiry went, so if anyone can update me on it I’d be pleased.

In the end, they too realise what we’re dealing with here, what we have to face day in day out.

They get it, when other clubs release inflammatory press statements about our supporters, as Hearts did some years ago, or when we’re accused of “rioting” in Dundee.

I am the very last guy in the world who’d do the rousing chorus of “no-one likes us, we don’t care.”

Neither part of that sentence is true.

But here, in Scotland, we’re constantly on our toes, and some who’ve worn the Celtic strip in the wrong places have paid a savage price for doing so.

Our younger fans continue to be the victims of harassment today, but nowadays it more often than not comes with official sanction and a police uniform.

It’s almost as if certain people are doing everything they can to stop fans going to games at all.

Over on the CelticBlog last night I asked if it’s time our fantastic away fans stopped doing just that, and I was amazed at the number of “yes” replies the article got on Facebook and elsewhere.

Our guys and girls are getting sick fed up with all this; with away fans who treat us with contempt, with their clubs leeching off of us, with the police constantly on our case and with governing bodies which can’t get their act together.

How long before it becomes a critical mass?

I love Scotland, and I voted for independence. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I know there are an awful lot of its citizens who strongly dislike, even hate, Celtic.

Many of them do it reflexively, not even fully aware of the reasons why.

I find that more than a little irritating because I genuinely believe our club has been a force for good in the game.

We were founded on a charitable basis. We continue that tradition today. Since the death of Rangers, we have been more than fair, more than generous, in helping to redistribute wealth down through the leagues.

We did as much as any club to bring forth the new cash settlement which the other sides now enjoy.

I would still like to think that we could yet offer a leading voice towards reform of the whole national sport.

But there are too many who will sneer at that.

We are the best placed and best equipped club for the task, but a lot of others would say we were on a power trip, resorting to the old cliché that it was simply arrogance that was spurring us on.

And so progress is halted, usually at the first step.

I am not asking other clubs and their supporters to bow the knee, because we’ve never been that kind of institution.

No-one will be asked to “render unto Caesar”.

Nor do I expect respect from those who despise us and can’t accept any positive flowing from our existence.

But nor do I think we should change – not one iota – in order to appease them.

That means we’ll always take a little flak.

It means we’ll always eat a little dirt.

It means that in some parts of this fair land we’ll always be thought of as the outsiders.

Fine. So be it.

Let the haters hate, because in the end it’s all they know how to do.

We are, and we’ve always been, so much more than that.

We’ve been here for 127 years, and you know what?

This club, and our traditions, will be here long after many of our enemies and critics have gone the way of the team that was once our greatest rival.

(This site faces many challenges going forward. As you probably gathered, Celtic isn’t the most liked club in the world, and that means I’m constantly having to update servers, protect it from spammers and hackers and various other issues. It’s a full time job, and if you want to support what I do, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

43 thoughts on “A Country That Hates Celtic?

  • 15 October, 2015 at 10:14 am
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    If many who proclaimed their love of Ireland were as quick to sing Scottish rebel songs ( flower of Scotland)
    If they stopped singing of terrorism, sectarian murderers
    If like the poppy campaign we were actually political and not wolves in sheep’s clothing …
    Perhaps many would envy rather than hate

  • 15 October, 2015 at 10:17 am
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    What do Irish Republicanism, Catholic schools and Orange walks have to do with Celtic FC?

    Keep your politics in the political playground and football on the football pitch and those in politics may have less reason to get involved in the football side of it.

    Your agenda is just as disgusting and self-serving as those in power.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 10:23 am
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    Fraser:

    Okay then. Let’s have it. Cause I’m sick of this ignorance.

    Tell me what the difference between William Wallace’s campaign against English rule in Scotland and the Irish war of independence was?

    Tell me which of the songs you seem to hate promotes sectarian murder? Name just one and I’ll close this site.

    You’re encouraging people to sing rebel songs about Scotland but somehow those about Ireland are distateful?

    Away and have a lie down man.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 10:24 am
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    APileAyPish:

    One of the most ludicrous posts in the history of this site.

    And that’s saying something.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 10:59 am
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    I’m simply showing how pathetic it is for Scots to sing about Ireland when we have our own country , songs poetry.
    Any song promoting the Ira , inla etc who committed sectetian murders are secterian .
    ” a shower of Scottish bastards ” ( racist )
    I don’t want to have it just expose the truth , idiots with broad glaswegian accents , plastic paddies are embarrassing and usually very thick

  • 15 October, 2015 at 11:04 am
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    You are thick my friend and there is no helping you.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 11:04 am
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    JF It’s time Celtic fans sat in the Pubs and clubs for a season and watched the hoops on TV and watch what happens in Scottish Football..They keep blaming Catholic schools for religious bigotry..When you listen to the bile from Crumbledome what Catholic schools did they go to..JF stop going to away games like I did 3 years ago after the Shambles at Tynecastle..Hit them where it hurts..In the pocket..I go to every home game now..You’ll find me in the Pub on Sunday watching our team..I wouldn’t give these clubs a Pot to P–s in HH

  • 15 October, 2015 at 11:12 am
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    A great post James.
    A post that shows up the hypocrisy and double standards we face…
    For those who disagree – so you expect scot/ brit expats all over the globe to start singing chinese/ spanish/ greek songs?
    No of course not.
    Only in Scotland is the celebration of ‘Irish – ness’ seen as a crime – that tells you an awful lot about Scotland.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 11:15 am
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    Loved the ashley madison quip btw,I left the “dear green place over 40 years ago and very glad of it too.the hatred will not go away it is inate in some folk and brainwashing by religion is a big factor.you may ask why I left Glasgow? well a nice policeman advised me to.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 11:27 am
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    A thoughtful piece of writing James. You are describing the sectarian cancer of anti-Irish racism that runs deep through Scottish society and often emerges from beneath a thin veneer of tolerance with the aid of a little alcohol. It will not be expunged in our lifetimes. For Celtic to take their place in the world and leave the Scottish cesspit they need to be part of an English or European league where they will be judged on football terms. I live in New Zealand and our only professional team plays in the Australian league. Swansea and Cardiff play in England and Berwick play in Scotland. Imagine the journey if we were allowed to enter a lower tier in England. No Europe for 3 years unless we win the FA Cup.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 11:28 am
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    Perhaps Celtic should apply to join the English league. What an uproar that would cause.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 11:31 am
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    People in general just want to feel they belong somewhere or be a part of something, even if that is negative, racist, sectarian or bigoted. The fact that the ‘taigs’ and the great Glasgow Celtic are the ‘top dogs’ in relation to Scottish Football, isn’t very palatable for the overwhelming majority of football fans in this country. I’d love it if politics and religion, had no place in a sport, that when played the right way, can transcend into a form of art. But, while their lot can still sing ‘the billy boys’ live on TV, with no fear from the SFA, the SPFL, the Police or the Government, tells ‘us’ all we need to know, about the best little bigoted country in the world. Only my opinion. HH

  • 15 October, 2015 at 11:45 am
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    Hey, great article.
    The thing with Catholic schools is this, people keep saying how divisive they are, but here is the thing, 80% of Catholics send their children to Catholic schools and half that number marry non Catholics, there is nothing divisive in that figure, in fact it is the opposite.
    Also around 20% of applications for catholic schools are from non Catholic families who like the high standard on offer.
    Those who wish their closure, wish so with no argument or statistics to back it up.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 12:12 pm
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    You keep peddling your pathetically childish agenda-driven nonsense. I’ll keep supporting a football team.

    People like you who pretend to be speaking for everyone but who are actually doing little more than politicising their own selfishness are a blight on Scottish football.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 1:27 pm
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    I worked out some years ago that it wasn’t so much an anti catholic agenda in Scotland but a viral anti Irish one. I remember as a you kid in the 70.s shops and factory’s with no Irish need apply. Not much has changed in the west of Scotland the bigotry has just been passed down from father to son.Oh frazer the thick do you even understand the meaning of sectarianism?? It means to hate or persecute someone solely for their religious beliefs. So many heroes if Irish republicanism were prodestant who HATED the persecution of the Irish people. Duh!!

  • 15 October, 2015 at 1:40 pm
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    James, another great article which again shows your passion for our club and highlights how we are treated.

    In the past few days we have seen a former First Minister and the usual suspects telling us that our game needs to change to allow us to qualify for major tournaments and on how the supporters have a role in this.

    We then see the Kilmarnock nonsense, the Ladbrokes/Aberdeen nonsense and the stupid reaction of the Scottish Football hierarchy and MSM.

    Celtic have single handily taken forward Scottish football on the International stage for the past 10 years on their own along with their fantastic supporters.

    If Scottish football is going to change we need to stop pandering to 1) The dead club Sevco, 2) A tainted MSM that have no credibility left whatsoever and 3) Change the disgraceful Leadership at the top of our game.

    Yes we are the biggest club in Scotland with the largest Fanbase, largest Budget, largest Stadium and largest potential! That is not going to change any time soon, despite what MSM would have you believe.

    The rest of Scottish football should be working with Celtic and not against them to improve our game.

    Just remember how people James Forrest, Phil, CQN, Paul McConville (RIP) and Turnbull Hutton working with supporters of other clubs managed to bring about change!!!

    Can you imagine what would have happened if we would have left it to Regan, Doncaster, the clowns on Radio Phone ins and our SMSM.

    Keep up the good work!

  • 15 October, 2015 at 1:49 pm
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    APileAePish:

    When, in your fevered imagination, did you ever get any hint that I think I’m speaking for anyone else, far less everyone else?

    You definitely need a lie down.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 2:12 pm
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    Firstly, I agree on your stance regarding poppies on jerseys and the way that the whole concept has been politicised.
    However, when we look back in years to come on articles such as this, do you think that they will be seen as part of the solution or part of the problem ? There is no doubt that there is anti \”Irishness\” among sections of the community in the West of Scotland and Celtic FC is a perfect scapegoat for those feelings. So do you really believe that continuing to sing republican songs at Celtic games will somehow help to diminish that ? I can\’t see how that will be part of the solution. I just don\’t believe that the singing of republican or unionist songs at football matches will ever help Glasgow in particular to get rid of this festering sore in the broader community that has plagued the city for almost a century.Those in power allow The Orange Order to march on a weekly basis in celebration of battles fought more than 300 years ago. Imagine if the Polish community in Glasgow did the same to commemorate the Battle of Zielence in 1792 against the Russians.. Most folk would say, \” This is Scotland, we don\’t want your lingering hatred here,Go back to Poland.\”
    It is time that the powers that be took a long , hard look at the role that The Orange Order plays in keeping this festering hatred alive. Its time that we all became a part of the solution.

  • 15 October, 2015 at 3:34 pm
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    I was recently in my wife’s cousins house,her grandson was in also there he is only 8 (his father is a follower of Sevco)he goes to football training with a team his father runs,any way we were in conversation about football,and rugby,his grandfather was in the conversation as well,anyway the 8 year old says that “I was a Southern Ireland supporter because I supported Celtic,all Celtic Supporters support them”his grandfather shook his head he is not a bigot himself,the 8 year old is a lovely kid,but his Sevco loving father is a bigot,a clown and brainless,what chance have we got,this bigot will ruin a nice kid,pretty sad

  • 15 October, 2015 at 3:36 pm
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    Sorry James but politics or religion have no place in a modern football club.

    If you think our support does not have it share of problems then there is no hope.

    Accusing others of being thick or ludicrous is neither an adult or intelligent response.

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