Crossing the Line

Rangers supremo Charles Green repeatedly tells us that Newco has transferred everything from Rangers 1872.

You know, the stadium, the training ground, some of the players. He even claims their titles, despite he and his media buddy and now hired gun, Jim Traynor, saying earlier in 2012 that should Rangers not attain a CVA, the club and its history were dead.

He talks about all of this, as flowing naturally from one corporate shell to the other, but never once has he been forthright about the transfer of something else; the transfer over of institutionalized sectarianism.

Recently, Spanish forward Fran Sandaza gave an interview to a Spanish newspaper about life in Scotland. It transpires that he was warned not to “cross” himself. He is not the first, but it was to be hoped that we’d seen the last of this kind of nonsense. Apparently not. It seems the informal policy is still maintained, even now, under a man with no connection to the dark days of Rangers past.

Whilst the Dundee “riot” yielded five arrests, one being a Dundee fan, and had several pages and column inches and was widely debated on football phone-ins, yet again the issue of religious bigotry was given a wide berth and frankly laughed off.

Rangers manager Ally McCoist stated in a press conference that he has no problems with any of his players “crossing themselves”.

“It is not even an issue for us.”

Adding: “It hasn’t been an issue in the past, and it won’t be in the future.”

So if Sandaza openly blessed himself in front of the Copland Road you’re telling me that there would be no derision or booing? Would he be sent to Coventry?

Ally, we all know you’re the cheeky chappy but you cannae kid a kidder. It is an issue, and it has been an issue, for longer than we care to remember. It is a stain on the game here, and a scandal.

Seeing as you’re desperate to hang on to the history, let me remind you of a few ex-Rangers players who felt the need to comment on this and how big name players have been bemused.

Take Shota Arveladze, a Georgian Orthodox who was booed at a Linfield v Rangers game in Windsor Park for “crossing” himself coming onto the pitch in 2003. It came from both sets of fans and he must have been absolutely bewildered by this. How can you possibly boo your own player for his beliefs? I don’t think Marvin Andews ever was and he was very public about his beliefs. Perhaps it was okay because the never went to an RC Church.

Former fans favourite Mikel Arteta told Toffee’ Talk the following, whilst at Everton.

“I am Catholic. But I have always been Catholic. The people at Rangers didn’t really like it, so I had to be respectful.”

Obviously not overtly criticising his former club but read into this what you will. Does this mean not blessing yourself? No wearing of Catholic paraphernalia? Keep your Crucifix at home Mikel, locked away in a darkened room with the Holy Water and the Bible you follow.

As to being respectful, why was Arteta the one who had to show “respect”? Respect to what? Intolerance, ignorance, hate?

Even more preposterous were tales from Wayne Rooney and the story of United’s Javier Hernandez.

The former Everton ace and Manchester United hero said in his book:

“We went to Ibrox to play Glasgow Rangers in a pre-season friendly and I got a very ‘warm’ reception from the home fans. Getting off the bus my crucifix had fallen outside my top and was on full display. They booed me from the start.”

How dare you wear any religious symbol within 500 yards of Ibrox Wayne! You should have known the rules pal.

So much so that Sir Alex Ferguson, a former Rangers player, who was effectively sine-die inside the club itself because he married a Catholic, warned Javier Hernandez not to perform his pre-match ritual before his side took on Rangers at Ibrox.

The article reads: “Rangers fans have already vowed on websites to target Hernandez if he goes through his normal routine and that will worry Ferguson who is anxious for United’s visit to pass peacefully.”

So Rangers fans were set to intimdate a footballer not based on his ability, but on his religion? Can you imagine what Ferguson had to tell his player prior to taking the field?

“Listen wee man, ye cannae bless yourself or do that ritual you do before the game, it’ll cause a riot.”.

Another player who allegedly fell victim of the non-crossing policy was Marco Negri, who incredibly scored around 30 goals for Rangers by Christmas and was told not to bless himself again. Take from this what you will. There was a hoax interview peddled on the internet and we will no doubt never know the true story. Negri is a virtual recluse now and doesn’t do interviews.

Even Bailey’s swigging Lorenzo Amoruso’s stated  in his biography that when he joined the club the then manager, Walter Smith, and unnamed others, advised the player not to bless himself when running onto the pitch, as was his custom. This might inflame the support. Here we have the first Catholic to captain Rangers being warned that should he dare acknowledge his background the masses, if you pardon the pun, would go mental.

“When I first came here, several people, including Walter, advised me not to cross myself as I ran on to the pitch because it would antagonise the Rangers fans.

“I thought that was ridiculous but I was in a strange land so I complied.”

Captain’s are often dubbed “courageous” so why could big Lorenzo not  stand up for his faith and do it? Souness signed Maurice Johnston supposedly to quell this bigotry, or so we’re told, but there is ample evidence to suggest it is still carried on today.

Stories of Rangers kitman, Jimmy Bell, emanated from Ibrox that he refused to wash Johstone’s kit and held a vow of silence. Ironic really.

The list is longer than we’d believe. You had players like Basil Boli, Andrei Kanchelskis and Jorg Albertz who were effectively barred from displaying any religious beliefs. All players idolised by their fans.

Surprisingly, one player spoke very openly about this to the Scotlad on Sunday newspaper.

Fernando Ricksen said: “If you’re Catholic and you play for Rangers, then you are a Protestant.

“If you play for the Protestant people, you don’t play for the Catholic people.”

Ricksen added: “If you can’t handle that, if you’re really a Catholic and you feel too  much about it, you don’t come to Rangers. You stay away.

“You’d better go to the other side [Celtic] or there will be a lot of problems for you.”

The player’s comments suggest that inside Rangers there is a virulent anti-Catholicism, and this is embraced, despite ditching their policy of not signing Catholic players, years ago. It seems very sinister to be indoctrinating players into this way of belief.

It clearly demonstrates that players from outside of Scotland had this ingrained into them as much as those born here. Step forward Andy Goram, Stuart McCall and Terry Butcher. They were English born and bred but came to Glasgow and found themselves sucked in.

Butcher spoke openly about this in his book, at the shame he felt when he realised he had become a part time bigot, and how his wife’s pointing it out to him filled him with regret, and as a result he is now about as popular as a fart in a spacesuit throughout the Rangers support.

During a 2-0 defeat at Celtic Park in January 1998, Goram wore a black armband in tribute to Billy ‘King Rat’ Wright, leader of the LVF who had been killed just days earlier. Goram’s excuse was that it was in respect to his dead Aunt. She had passed away four months earlier, and surely there would have been plenty of games previous to this to mourn someone so close? This was a guy who was born in Bury. What made him obtain such beliefs? How did it manifest itself into such hatred? I’ll leave you to draw your  own conclusions there.

Then, there’s Artur Boruc. The Holy Goalie was questioned by police for Blessing himself at Ibrox (something he did at every ground and every game). I seriously can’t imagine someone calling the Police in uber-rage.

“I want to complain about the Celtic goalkeeper – he crossed himself and we’re all pure beelin’ ”

I’ve always been of the thinking that the person doing the complaining is the bigot and unable to accept someone else’s beliefs. The notion that those complaining could have been “incited to violence” by the act is, in fact, not a reason to arrest Boruc but, surely, the very reason those doing the shouting should have been off the streets? After all, if you were to walk into a police station and claim the sight of someone doing something you didn’t like (and which is legal!) had moved you to want to hurt them, it would be you, not the person you’re talking about, who would spend time in a cell.

If someone blessing themselves really sparks fury and boils your blood then shouldn’t you be taking a look at yourself. I don’t walk past the local Church of Scotland and self combust with rage.

Should the modern day Rangers fan on the big adventure not be willing to accept Sandaza’s beliefs. Surely he’s an integral part of their quest? We are continually told by Charles Green and the fans that they are making new friends on their travels. I take it many of those new friends are not disclosing their religious persuasion to the club from Glasgow? Let’s not kid ourselves, the baggage of sectarianism is still being carried as they pass through the towns of Annan, Peterhead and Elgin.

Even last Saturday, the same old songs were being belted out at Hampden, perhaps a two-fingered salute at the office bearers on the 6th Floor.

The bottom line is – either McCoist or Sandaza is lying.

I’m picturing McCoist putting his arm around Sandaza before his first appearance for this new team.

“Fran, let me make this clear.

“WE DON’T DO CROSSING OURSELVES!”

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Gavin McCann

A dipsomaniac funambulist steadying himself on life's tightrope through the medium of writing. I "suffer" from diphallic terata with mild polyorchidity. Like a dug wi' two dicks.

gavin-mccann has 35 posts and counting.See all posts by gavin-mccann

4 thoughts on “Crossing the Line

  • 4 January, 2013 at 4:30 pm
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    James buddy i hope he does it at his next game at ibrox and we will finally see what the reaction will be, if hes been told not to do it then charlie should rip the person or ppl a new one.

  • 4 January, 2013 at 8:49 pm
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    Agree with this post Gav. Charles Green had the chance to bring this club into the 21st century but instead has played to the gallery. New club living in the dark ages.

  • 6 January, 2013 at 11:28 pm
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    I have commented on other sites before, there is something that happens to young impressionable players, sometimes even hardened professionals, when they walk through those “pearly gates”.

    Weis, Bartley, Novo etc were tarnished with bigotry.

    No accident, something or someone gets into their brain and under their skin.

  • 11 January, 2013 at 6:36 pm
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    Excellent objective article Gavin. I am torn between sadness and anger at the complete and utter lack of analysis from the so called mainstream media -both taboild and (even worse) the so called quality press. Jabba Traynor for years (at the taxpayers expense – GRR!) pedalled his inarticulate drivel on the airwaves and was allowed to get away with it.
    The MSM in Scotland have the access to the same facts and history as yourself. Why don’t they do they do their profession proud and at least attempt to tell the truth?

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