It’s July 1690. A battle between a Dutch monarch and an English King takes place on the East coast of Ireland. Over 326 years later, and I can’t get my pizza delivered as a result.
Saturday the 10th of September 2016 was a busy night in Glasgow, with it marking the first league meeting between Celtic and Rangers since 2012. For weeks leading up to the match, it was the talk of the town. People were trying their hardest to get their hands on one of the elusive tickets. Others trying to get the day off of work in order to watch the match on television. The banter between the fans had reached peak levels. The Old Firm was back.
And that’s the problem.
Above, I refer to communication between the fans as ‘banter’. I really do wish it was only this. For, sections of both fans can only be described as some of the worst human beings anyone can ever encounter. There is a constant back and forth between them about ‘who is the worst’, but ultimately, they are as bad as each other.
From the game itself, which Celtic deservingly and convincingly won 5-1 against a poor Rangers side, arose an ugly head which hadn’t surfaced for a few years.
In amongst the Celtic fans hung, by the necks, two blow up dolls wearing Rangers scarfs, as an effigy of their feelings towards their counterparts. The Rangers’ fans’ rebuttal? To tear apart the toilet facilities in the stadium. Whether this was to protest the dolls, or just a lashing out as a result of the score (likely a mixture of both) it wasn’t in any way an appropriate reaction.
The dolls hanging from the Celtic Park stands
The club have since released a statement calling the actions of the Celtic fans ‘sicken and shameful’ and a display of ‘outright sectarian hatred’, which it ultimately was, but coming from a club who have had their fair share of sectarian incidents over the years, a little more tact could’ve been used. I have since seen no apology for the Rangers’ fans’ behaviour in destroying the facilities, either.
Another recent incident taking place at Celtic Park during their Champions League qualifier against Israeli Premier League side Hapoel Be’er Sheva saw a prominent section of the Celtic supporters displaying an array of Palestinian flags throughout the game, despite being warned by officials not to do so. After the match, and after the club receiving a fine for the display, a Celtic fan’s spokesperson claimed the display was a show of support for the Palestinian people and their plight. If this were true, it would be a great gesture, however, this wasn’t the case. The Palestinian flags would have been displayed, as they represent the ‘opposite’ of their team at that moment. And once again, this is a problem. At the Old Firm game in September, a close source, who was at the game, told me of Rangers’ fans displaying Israeli flags. Why? Because the Celtic fans had Palestine flags.
Now, I can’t say for certain, but I would put good money on the majority, the vast majority, of the fans involved in the aforementioned incidents not even know why they were displaying these flags, other than because it’s the opposite of what the other guy is doing. It is stupidity, pettiness, and insolence at its finest.
And herein lies the problem. Between these two sets of fans, of these wonderful clubs, there is always going to this he said she said mentality. One set of fans saying that the other are out of order, while their own fans, at the same time, are doing something stupid to give the other set ammunition.
The toilets in Celtic Park after the Rangers fans had left
The biggest problem about the Old Firm rivalry is that it is more than a rivalry. Now many football fans would say that is the case for their team and their rivals, but up here, it truly is more than a rivalry. It’s sheer hatred.
In many ways, the Old Firm represents a Scotland that so many want to forget. A rash and barbaric attitude is adhered by foolhardy fans that truly don’t understand what they’re allegedly representing. I guarantee that if you asked a great number of Rangers fans, who proudly shout and chant the numbers 1690, what caused the Battle of the Boyne, they’d be at a loss. I bet if you asked a great number of Celtic fans to rhyme off why Bobby Sands went on hunger strike, they’d struggle to name any reason. It is this type of uneducated loyalty that is giving Celtic, Rangers and Glasgow such a bad name.
However, not all the fans are this bad. Not by a long shot. Out with the Neanderthal-like behaviour shown by many fans, there are those who are passionate about their football team without committing such heinous offences. And they manage to do so with no problem!
Why can’t all the fans be like these fans? The fans that are well behaved. The fans that don’t make ill-advised protests. That fans that don’t destroy entire rooms because their team got beat. The fans that don’t involve themselves in a conflict, which has nothing to do with them, just because the other side has. The fans that don’t live and die by actions from decades, even centuries ago. The fans that let the players do the talking. The fans that leave the football on the pitch. The fans that support their team just as much as anyone else. The fans that should be the reflection of their teams.
Scotland is stuck in its ways when it comes to this completely outdated and unnecessary behaviour. It comes from an older generation educating their kin about these outdated and unnecessary ways. That is why it needs to be eradicated now. For the hope of the next generation being able to enjoy a game of football, along with tens of millions around the world, in peace, not having to worry about the ramifications.
It’s likely that these words will fall on deaf ears, and those who do read them will retaliate by sharing something about their rivals, and how bad they are, and how their team is innocent. This will only reiterate my point further. At the moment, both Celtic and Rangers fans are as bad as each other, and there is no argument about it. Whatever example you can bring up of one side, there is an equally as bad example for the other.
There can be an amiability
It is up to us, here and now, to change this. Stop reacting to the other side. It’s likely that you’ll find by not reacting, less will happen. This continuous loop needs to end, and it needs to end now. For the sake of The Old Firm, and Scottish Football as a whole, this behaviour needs to be wiped out, and it all begins with a conscious decision to be the bigger and better person.
But who is going to take the first step?