In Defence Of The Worlds Greatest Fans

celtic-fans_1806391bA few weeks ago, I got an email from one of the readers of this blog.

He’s a pensioner, and in the message he said he thought it was important to keep alive what Celtic means, and to keep on highlighting our “contribution to world football.” He was right.

As time goes by, as I get older, I think about what Celtic has meant to me all my life. I think about the way it has affected everything I do.

I strongly suspect I got my personality from Celtic, everything from my optimistic outlook to the way I handle adversity. I know, for sure, that no other institution, from the church to the political organisations I’ve been a member of along the way, has had as profound an impact on the way I view the world. Celtic is part of who I am.

I do believe this club has made a major contribution to world football, and we continue to.

The Celtic supporters have also had a major effect on the world around them, as the Thai Tims can attest, as the kids from the Kano Foundation know well, as the children of a hundred African villages will grow up to respect. We have changed lives. No doubt about it.

Like every other successful football club we have enemies and it’s probably not exactly unusual to find that the bulk of ours exist in our own country. Whereas Celtic fans can go just about anywhere in the world and be made to feel welcome, here at home we have to run a gauntlet of criticism and spite that we simply don’t get elsewhere.

Right now, the opposition are in paroxysms of joy at the prospect of us getting into trouble at UEFA for our latest wee indiscretion, where a group of morons decided to bring flares into the San Siro not giving a damn what the consequences were.

I say to those fans first that your behaviour is disgusting. You’re not Celtic supporters, and I don’t care that you flew over there on your own dime. You weren’t representing us, you were representing yourselves and you made that quite clear. The club is going to weed you out, and that’s a fact. It will be better off without you.

But to those who would use this event to beat us … well, you’re barking up the wrong tree. A few idiots aside we are what we have always been; the best supporters in the world. You won’t change that. UEFA fines won’t change it. A few halfwits on Sevco sites pointing to our “record” won’t change it. I don’t give a damn what they think … because the rest of the world knows better.

Celtic fans are amongst the moved loved and respected on the planet.

Our reputation wasn’t built on the back of the way we’re viewed in Scotland. It was built on the way we’re perceived by those friends we’ve made across the world … and that part of our reputation will be forever beyond the reach of those who hate us.

Our friends know who we are, just as we do, and they are everywhere; in Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Holland, England and elsewhere … wherever we have played in recent years, we have built relationships with the fans of other clubs.

You know, about five years ago I read a Rangers fan site actually mocking Celtic fans for going out of the way to make friends wherever we went.

We had just been invited to Villarreal for a tournament, cementing a bond which goes back a while now.

The writer was expressing his opinion on that.

I would love to say the piece in question reeked of jealousy, because that would be semi-rational, but in fact it was worse than that; it was written in a tone that was honestly hostile to the very idea that a club’s fans should go abroad and try to make friends.

The writer had his own ideas about what a European city should expect from a visiting club’s supporters; mayhem. Chaos. “I want them to be terrified when we are in town,” he said … and I found that the most profoundly revealing statement of all.

It was something they made good on time and time again.

Villarreal didn’t forget them any more than it forgot us.

Likewise Pamplona.

Manchester would probably rather it was never visited by them this side of Armageddon.

We have a few recidivists in our support, a small group who continue to engage in behaviour that I’d call moronic except that morons would be offended, but without defending these people – I wouldn’t even try, they ought to be outcasts – I ask you; what exactly are these terrible crimes of which the Celtic support stands accused by our friends here at home?

Letting off fireworks. Songs UEFA doesn’t like. A couple of banners pointing to the hypocrisy of our the Scottish Government, and telling the game’s governing body what a section of support thought of their decision making.

UEFA takes this stuff seriously; pyrotechnics in grounds, political banners and singing … but without trying to downplay the significance of this, we’re not talking about rioting in the stands here. Celtic’s crime count is the equivalent of loitering, of being drunk and incapable, of peeing in public. This is hardly a list of the most heinous sins ever seen in a football ground.

UEFA charges are bad news. We could find ourselves with a stand closed, or having our fans banned from travelling to away games. Indeed, Peter Lawwell must be tempted to refuse our next European ticket allocation … but that would punish the best fans in the world for the actions of a few and I doubt it will ever come to that.

Celtic fans have always been self-policing. No-one is any doubt that our club is being harmed by the actions of a few idiots. That will not be allowed to continue.

But the damage to the club does not impact on the esteem in which we are held.

Never forget that. Our contribution to world football, the good we have done, will forever outweigh the bad when it comes to how the rest of the sport views us.

On a day like today, with anger replacing our justifiable pride after the heroics on the pitch last night we should have been buzzing and eagerly awaiting the big match against Aberdeen at the weekend.

It is all too easy to be disheartened by negative headlines and a gleeful media who will milk this as much as the Sevco supporters who have been dying for something like this to deflect from their own scandalous behaviour of late … but nothing has changed here.

We are still special supporters. We are still welcome everywhere we go. The Celtic Park atmosphere is the best in Europe, by far, and the vast, vast majority of our away fans continue to do us credit, as magnificent ambassadors.

The respect others have for us, the affection many feel across the continent whenever they see the green and white hooped shirt … it is the same as it was yesterday. A few halfwits will not wreck that, no matter what the press here would have you believe.

Our football club has improved out of sight since this season began. The name “Celtic” rung out across Europe over these two legs. We did more than just regain our pride, we started to rebuild our reputation on the pitch … and that work stands us in good stead as we look ahead to the rest of the domestic season and our next European campaign.

My pride in this football club is undimmed. My pride at being a Celtic fan will never fade. We are what we have always been. The special fans of a special club.

How does the song go? “When you walk through a storm hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark.”

Whatever the media might tell you, this is no more than a light shower.

We know who we are, and so do those friends we have everywhere, because that is what we’ve always been about. Our club will be forced to defend that reputation in the halls of UEFA and that is sad, because this organisation was giving us awards not long ago, but that reputation was not made there and it will not be harmed there.

We are – still, and always will be – the greatest fans in the world.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

(It’s that time of the year again, when we need your support. You can help our work by making a donation at the PayPal link at the top or the bottom of your page, depending on which device you are using. Thank you in advance, friends.)

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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.

16 thoughts on “In Defence Of The Worlds Greatest Fans

  • 27 February, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Time the green brigade were gone! They are destroying the club I have loved and supported for almost 60 years.
    They have had chance after chance and throw them back in our face,sorry but GET THEM OUT. HAIL HAIL.

  • 27 February, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    They always get the blame … but there’s no proof it was them.

  • 27 February, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Some out there’s knows who is lighting these flares,some one out there knows who threw the bottle injuring the young Rangers fan,please come forward.We have a small minority of idiots,let us get rid of them for good. H H

  • 27 February, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    I do not know who is setting off these flares but I wish they would just gtf! I am sure there are many like me who if saw them would gladly punch them right on the coupon. They are trying to destroy Celtic and are not supporters of the club.

  • 27 February, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    Owen its pretty presumptious to blame the GB, some have done this perhaps The Green Brigade on their day are brilliant HH

  • 27 February, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Owen Doyle seems to know who the perpetrators were last night in the upper tier of the Giuseppi Mezza stadium.

    He has information that it was members of the Green Brigade.

    I suggest Owen should get in contact with the relevant authorities and give the names of the perpetrators and let Celtic FC deal with them in a befitting manner which would be to ban them from all Celtic matches for life. .

    If Owen doesn\’t have this information, i would suggest he button\’s it until he does and toi cease and desist from making spurious allegations without credence or foundation.

    Look before you leap, think before you speak.

  • 27 February, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Owen Dolan even!!

  • 27 February, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Yet another great post, first I’ve felt the need to comment on!

    Felt the need to add my comments to the attitude of the Ashford mob.

    In February 2003, myself and 9 friends (along with several thousand other Celtic supporters) travelled to the German city of Stuttgart for a uefa cup last 32 tie. You don’t need me to tell you where all that ended. However, we spent an awesome 5 days in a fantastic city and were treated wonderfully by our hosts (despite us being thoroughly drunk for the majority of the time)

  • 27 February, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Sevco, not Ashford!

    Anyway, a season or maybe two later rangers (il) drew Stuttgart in the champions league group stage. This drew a conversation with a rangers supporting colleague who told me he was booked up for stuttgart. My response was to wax lyrical about the wonders of the city and its people and the general merriment that was to be had. His response: “can’t wait, we’re gonna wreck the fucking place”

    To say I was stunned was an understatement. I’ve since learned that everyone doesn’t travel with the same attitude that we do!

  • 28 February, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    As a fan who has followed from first week of RTC, TSFM, Phil and your goodself, and became disillusioned by the circus of Scottish Football Admin. I find this post rekindling what is unique and abiding affection for Celtic.
    However in letting go of the Circus, the truth will out and the bus will crash and the pretendygers will be accommodated in whatever way they need, we have taken our eye off the ball at home, Paradise!
    It’s no accident we call it home.
    The GB have brought a unique and inspiration thunder back, with a great brand of humour, not seen anywhere else, the original “Scotland’s shame>>>>>”, included! Now they have become, or attract, a neo political, supremacist clientele.
    This is not who we are!
    We Are Celtic, a club and support like no other.

  • 28 February, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    I have said something on celticfanzone about these so called fans, time has come to hand them over rid our club of them I will keep going till we rid them, a the away game against accies I was with 2 grandsons when this we fecking arsehole ran up to them started talking about his mob as we were in back row I told him to yes rid himself in no uncertain language he did run

  • 28 February, 2015 at 6:20 pm


    That post makes very little sense.

  • 1 March, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Are you the guy who determines what a Celtic supporter is, or isnt? Are you James?
    It is not for us to determine who can support our club. It is, however, for us to point out and challenge attitudes that are inconsistent with our own ethics and morals. Pyro is wrong as it affects asthmatics and people with lung conditions. It is not illegal, as far as I am aware. It may be against the current rules of the gang called UEFA who are known to preach a lot, yet practice little, but just because they say no doesn’t mean they are right. They tell us no Palestinian flags, yet FIFA recognise them as a football federation. They tell us no political banners yet request a minutes silence for the death of one of the greatest political leaders of our time. They tell us of financial fair play yet organise their competitions to exclude the vast majority of clubs form sharing in the finances of their greatest competition. So i disagree with Uefa, and their position on most things, their silence on others and their general aura of smug bastardness. i also disagree with Celtic supporters moaning about young lads with a stick of fireworks enjoying their club their way. Especially when they come across as miserable old bastards, yet no doubt invaded a pitch or two in the 70 and 80s, or pissed at the back of the jungle so that the river ran down to the feet of the weans at the front. See that was just how it was then? Really, well this is just how it is now. Get the fuck over yerself and yer holier than thou attitudes. Cos guess what? Thats generally how it is now. Next time you see a young guy with a flare, pull him aside, point out the boy with the inhaler or the girl in a wheelchair with a mobile ventilator, or the guy with the eye condition and ask them to reconsider. If he then still set the flare off you have every right to punch his lights out. Whilst you are at it ask him if he is a member of The Green Brigade. I think you’ll find that he is not.
    Oh, and remember the 125 celebration against Barca? That did more to promote our club in Europe than anything the board have done (hopefully barring Ronnie’s employment – eating my words here) in the past 10 years, and guess who executed that? Exactly, the Bhoys and Ghirls of The Green Brigade. Long may they continue their excellent work.

  • 1 March, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Gav … I never ONCE suggested that it WAS the Green Brigade … quite the opposite.

    I’m a huge fan of these guys … but you know what? They, and their supporters, need to stop spitting the dummy out the pram at the first HINT of criticism.

    It makes them seem intolerant, not up to taking on board the concerns of other people.

    And I’ve written – extensively – on the hypocrisy of UEFA. We all know what UEFA is and how ridiculous some of their regulations are.

    But they remain regulations nonetheless … and for all it might please some five-minute rebels it drops our club in the shit.

    “Enjoying the club their way” happens to be against the law and puts us at odds with an organisation that was giving us awards not long ago.

    A lot of Sevco fans “enjoy the club their way.” And we know what that way is.

  • 3 March, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Good posts but we miss a point arguing here, we should all be the GB, it shouldn’t be left to them to lift the atmosphere away and particularly at home. I am embarrassed sometimes that it is left to them and would hope that they would want the rest of the ground to at least back them vocally To be asked to ‘make some noise for the boys’ is a red neck. If the club enlarged the GB instead of trying to proscribe it we could all share the responsibility of really supporting the club . I know many fans do this in their own way and you do not need to sing before, during and after the game to show your support, Did this in the 60’s/70’s and now don’t so thank feck for the GB.

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