One of the reasons the Old Firm tag is so hated, at least as far as Celtic fans are concerned, is that the use of it gives license to half-witted and unscrupulous hacks to paint both sets of fans as “as bad as each other.”
I have always refuted it, and I refute it now. It offends me, and it’s a warped version of reality that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Last night was the Glasgow Cup Final, and it was no more than half an hour old before my tolerance of the Sevco Rangers fans intolerance snapped. I posted on Facebook at half time how much I was enjoying the match (I was watching it on CelticTV), but that I had considered turning the volume off. I can only stomach hate directed at me and mine for so long before it wears me down.
Today the papers are full of the usual stories about the “sectarian hate on both sides”. There’s even a wee picture doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook, of Celtic fans wearing masks and holding green flares, a picture which has appeared in a national newspaper where the inference is clearly that it was taken last night. They couldn’t have a found a more dramatic counterpoint to the photo of Sevco Rangers casuals being given a police escort to the game if they tried.
Except the photo of the Celtic fans was taken five years ago, in Hamburg. Am I saying the press lied? I am saying they’ve been caught – and not for the first time – letting their own bias run wild. They’ve been pinched, red handed as it were, trying to put their own gloss on things instead of simply presenting the facts. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.
The newspaper that printed this, along with a story blaming both sets of fans for the atmosphere at the game was, of course, The Sun, a paper with a long and proud history of sticking up for football fans … oh wait, no it hasn’t. It has a history of stitching up football fans … that’s the phrase I was looking for. Amongst supporters of many clubs, the paper that lied about Hillsborough has a reputation for “truth” somewhat akin to that of the Iraqi Ministry of Propaganda under Comical Ali.
Today’s reports on the match and the scenes inside the ground talk about fans breaking seats, indulging in sectarian chanting, taunting each other … I could go on. You get the point. I can only tell you that what I heard last night was sectarian bile to an almost numbing degree from one set of supporters, and I can only express my bafflement at why Celtic fans would break seats in their own stadium. Draw your own conclusions from that, as well as the Green Brigade statement that they, as a group, were not at the game, and contrast that with the pictures of large numbers of hooded Sevco Rangers casuals being escorted there by lines of police.
Do I need to spell it out more than that? I am sick of this crap.
Celtic supporters have few friends in the Scottish press, and we never really have. We’re not their natural target audience, for a start, and in recent years we’ve proved utterly immune to their propaganda and garbage. They take full advantage of that fact too, trying to show us in the worst possible light every time.
Take last year when a fire engulfed the bus depot where Sevco Rangers shiny new ride was being kept. Not only did The Sun print McCoist’s despicable – and never withdrawn or apologised for, by the way – dangerous and wholly false allegation that it was in some way related to our fans, but the story was capped by a picture of Celtic supporters at a friendly match in England.
The inference of that couldn’t have been clearer had they used a picture of a Celtic fan walking down the road carrying a can of gasoline.
This is a desperate newspaper, part of a desperate cadre of failing publications who’s “journalists” have been caught bending the truth, distorting reality, printing glorified press releases as news without doing the most basic fact checking and, on occasion, when it’s suited them and they’ve had nothing else to print, they’ve gone out and invented facts and printed outright lies. It’s little wonder they are viewed with contempt by almost every fan in the land.
But of course, this goes deeper than just a few dodgy pictures over dodgy headlines. This culture of tagging both sides the same way is just not on any longer. People need to understand, and I include some of those inside Celtic Park, those who might be misguided, stupid or who think they see marketing potential in the notion, that the vast, vast majority of our fans despise the Old Firm tag and want nothing to do with it. If such a thing ever existed – and I dispute that and I always have anyway – doesn’t it pretty much stand to reason that it died when Rangers did?
As far as I’m concerned it’s better off dead. To those who ask me if I miss Rangers, I can point to nights like last night, to the bile that poured out of thousands of mouths, and say, with all honesty, a resounding no. I’d love the chance to see our team dismantle the pretenders wearing the dead club’s jersey, and I think the continuing shambles that surrounds their boardroom is fascinating stuff, and worthy of the attention it gets, because it has implications beyond one club and even beyond football, but if our club never again took the field against a team using their name and their badge and playing out of Ibrox, I would not exactly mourn.
A section of their support is a stain on this country, and as long as the shell of a football club exists which considers them, and their “traditions”, worthy of embrace I will wish the whole club nothing but the worst of everything, because it is impossible for me to do otherwise. Those songs of hate last night were directed at me and mine, and as I don’t possess the ability to turn the other cheek like a latter day Jesus Christ I make no bones about hating them right back.
There’s only so much of it I can stomach, only so much of it that I can ignore. I want no association with these people or their “culture”, as warped as some of their versions of that are. These days, when I hear people say how much they “look forward to having them back in the league” I want to grill those folk mercilessly on the reasons why, even accepting the false premise of their statement in the first place. I want to know what merit they would bring.
If it’s just to provide us with “a football rival” I would dispute that, because they’re not and they won’t be for the foreseeable future. If it’s for comedy value, I’d suggest we get plenty of it already. If it’s because these people “miss the experience” then I’d suggest psychiatric assistance. The “experience” of having to listen to that – to people preaching racial and religious superiority over you – is absolutely horrendous. I would gladly never do so again as long as I live.
For too many years now their supporters have avoided the scrutiny they deserve because of a media that loves to put them together with us, as if we were one in the same. No more of it. Celtic fans want to stand totally separate. When we screw up – and I think we’ve let ourselves down on a few occasions these past few years – we stand alone and take the medicine. I think that, shorn of this nonsensical idea that we share some commonality with people who despise us, we’ll do just fine in terms of our reputation.
Being a Celtic fan has always been a source of pride for me. It’s something I can tell people with my head held high, and a smile on my face and I’ve never been even slightly embarrassed or worried about doing so. We are known, the world over, as a respectful, tolerant, diverse, multi-cultural, multi-religious, internationalist, socially aware and politically savvy group of people. The banners which greeted the team at the weekend, reminding Leigh Griffiths of his wider responsibilities as a Celtic player, were magnificent and made me proud, and I hope they have an impact on turning this young guy around, and I am sure they will. If not, then he has no future at the club.
Griffiths let himself down and he let Celtic down, and it will not be tolerated and the supporters at the weekend made it very clear. The people who were escorted to Celtic Park last night by the police, hooded, dressed in black, carrying firecrackers and who spent the entire 90 minutes indulging in a sectarian, racist hate-fest support a club who’s top goal scorer hails from a country they detest, who’s citizens they despise, who’s institutions they deplore and upon whom they poured every piece of degenerate filth they could spew out of their mouths.
They are a complete aberration, not just in our city or in our country but amongst the human race. Hate is their default position, and I refuse to pretend I don’t feel the same way about them. It devalues me, it devalues my argument, but I won’t hide behind lies any more than I would hide behind a convenient shield like anonymity on this blog or elsewhere, or attempt to drag others into my way of thinking using a useful slogan or tag.
Let the media paint this in whichever way they like. They will anyway. They are, in their penchant for distorting the facts and denying reality, every bit as bad as the hate filled trash who were breaking seats last night at an under 17’s game. They also revel in over-blown hyperbole; the enormous “trouble” they’ve splattered all over the front pages amounted to three arrests – one before, one during and one after the game. This, too, is simply a way of distracting from the real story though, the sectarian karaoke that emanated from the Sevco end for a full 90 minutes.
Using years old photographs to highlight a twisted narrative brings more clarity to their reporting than they would like though. If you can’t even trust the images that go with the story, how can you view the story itself objectively, or imagine the hacks writing it did? The whole report is skewed and the whole notion they’re trying to sell is a fabrication.
The media and that section of the Sevco Rangers support that refuses to join the rest of society in behaving in a reasonable and respectful fashion really are as bad as each other.
When I think of those people who last night filled my ears with bigotry I think of the moment in the film Michael Collins where Liam Neeson and Aiden Quinn are discussing what they have to do in their war against the British, and Neeson pontificates for a moment on hate.
“I do hate them,” he tells Quinn. “I hate them for making hate necessary.”
That about sums it up for me.
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