Sunday, 3 February 2013

Let’s hear it for the Ghirls

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my years following Celtic has undoubtedly been the rise in the number of female fans who regularly attend games. In days gone past the football terracing was a very macho place as well as an insanitary and occasionally dangerous environment. The culture of drinking at Scottish football combined with inadequate toilet facilities meant that few females would venture into this rough, uncouth, urine soaked world. The rituals of football in those days were undoubtedly masculine. For many, the game revolved around male oriented public spaces such as the pub, supporter’s bus and the stadium with all its manly rituals. Of course some hardy ladies did find their place on the terraces. How many of you recall the woman who would stand by the corner flag at the Celtic end near the main stand at home games? She usually had a Teddy Bear decked out in Celtic colours with her and she can be seen in many clips from games of the 80s and 90s. But for many women in past decades, even those who liked football, waiting at home for their men folk to return and tell them how the game went was as much as they could expect.

However it was the advent of all-seater stadia and decent facilities which seems to have persuaded more woman and girls that watching football is a pass time they’d like to get involved with. The modern Ghirl is clued and as passionate about Celtic as any man. It could be argued that their presence in larger numbers has had a calming effect on some male fans. I recall a guy who regularly used very strong language at games change when a lady season ticket holder began sitting in front of him. It was comical to watch him bite his tongue and try to moderate his language as he followed the ebb and flow of the game. He’d shout…’Ref ya Fu…oh sorry hen!’ Despite her repeatedly reassuring him that she didn’t mind his language he tried very hard to be a gentleman! However, such anecdotes show that the lady was there to enjoy the football not change the behaviour of others around her. She quite rightly just wanted to be treated like any other Celtic fan.

Women have had to put up with some very patronising behaviour at times in the still fairly masculine world of football. We all recall Sky Sports’ dinosaurs Andy Gray and Richard Keyes jibe about a female Assistant Referee...’Do us a favour love, do you even know the off side rule?’ When male officials get it wrong it’s because they're inept. When female officials get it wrong apparently it’s because they’re women? Sadly such dumb sexism still exists in our society. Google ‘Female Football Fans’ and I’ll lay good odds you’ll see pictures of girls in bikinis in club or national colours. This is more to do with the masculine dominated media than any accurate representation of modern female football fans. However, wider discussions about sexism in the media would fill volumes. Suffice to say I agree with Cheris Kremarea who said that ‘Feminism is the radical idea that women are human beings too.’ The vast majority of Celtic fans would agree with that and hate discrimination against any group on racial, religious or ethnic grounds. I’m sure they’d agree that discrimination on grounds of gender is equally stupid.

I think it’s great that the number of female fans following Celtic is growing. It’s a sign that our society is evolving and changing for the better. The Ghirls I talk to at Celtic Park or on social networking sites are as clued up about football and as knowledgeable about Celtic as any guy. They also love Celtic with as much passion as any other fan and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.  


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