Friday, 19 July 2013

The Boys of the Mock-Shock Brigade

Celtic’s visit to Belfast wasn’t as nerve shredding as I feared. They did a thoroughly professional job on Cliftonville and scored 3 good goals. They also looked like hitting more and carried a lot of threat up front with Forest, Samaras, Commons and Stokes all looking hungry.  At the back, Ambrose seems to have listened to those who told him that clearing his lines is safer than trying to dance out of defence with the ball.  The atmosphere in the ground sounded incredible although the boffins at the BBC seemed intent on turning the crowd volume up and down. Perhaps this was to allow us to hear the typically inane comments of Stephen Craigan who apparently makes a living by stating the obvious at football games. That apart it looked a good advert for both clubs and no doubt made Cliftonville a few quid. Few can grudge them that as they were gracious hosts who made visiting Celtic fans feel like they were among family.
One thing which did come across loud and clear on BBC Scotland’s coverage was the raucous singing of Rebel songs and this  had the Sevco web sites in meltdown. There was much discussion of which ‘Fenians’ were actually singing the songs; the home side’s fans, the visitors or both? They were also asking each other in fevered tones if they should email UEFA about this ‘shocking event’? The mock shock took on comic proportions when they referred to the chant ‘If you hate the Orange Order clap your hands.’ This was described by one apoplectic bear as ‘Vile sectarianism of the worst kind from the Bheasts!’  Rather ironic when one looks at the effigies of the pope, papal flags and even a holy statue placed on bonfires. There was also rioting by, among others, Orangemen demanding to march through nationalist areas. The silence on those events from those of a Sevconian hue is deafening. Closer to home we had of course the events in Coatbridge last week. We heard all the old hate filled anthems in the predominantly catholic town. Mr Salmond promised to stamp out such excesses but it all poured out as the Police stood by and did nothing. So the mock-shock on the Sevco sites is fooling no one. It’s simply more selective cherry picking of things to be offended by. A look closer to home would demonstrate that they have more than enough to concern themselves with among their own support.
 That being said, anyone who reads my blogs will know my opinions on the singing of ‘Rebs’ at Celtic games. UEFA fined Celtic £12,700 following ‘illicit chanting’ against Rennes in 2011. Peter Lawell said at the time: "We reiterate our position that, however small the minority, such chanting is not welcome at Celtic."  Neil Lennon too was adamant that such chanting was not wanted at Celtic.  Belfast was the perfect storm for the re-emergence of Rebel songs. A long hot day, beer flowing and the nature of the fixture at Solitude Park meant few were surprised to hear the ‘Rebs.’ But rest assured if there is a recurrence of such singing at future matches played under the auspices of UEFA then the ever vigilant Sevconians will be firing of the emails and YouTube links to the disciplinary department at UEFA. There is nothing the Newco followers enjoy more than trying to drag us into the gutter which the worst of their fans have inhabited for many years.  So it’s time to engage the brains and support the team with the many great Celtic songs in our repertoire. Belfast was much more than a game of football, it was a gathering of the clans, a folk festival of the Celtic family played out at a time of heightened tension. In that context it was perhaps understandable that the old songs were heard but there’s no excuse for it at any future Champions League fixtures. Those who love Celtic would never knowingly tarnish the club or its reputation. I’ve said before that I have no problem with these songs in the correct context it’s simply that in 2013 a football stadium is not the correct context. Think about it.

 On a lighter note I met that most talented of Tims, Billy No’Well today and we talked for hours about our memories of following Celtic and what the club means to us and thousands like us. Celtic is our heritage, handed on to us by the generations who came before us. Some say it is shocking that Glasgow has no Famine memorial like other places where the Irish settled in large numbers. I say to them stand in Kerrydale Street and look at Celtic Park. It’s is a living memorial to what the sons and daughters of the Irish diaspora achieved in Scotland. An Gorta Mor killed so many and displaced even more but these pugnacious people refused to give up. They built a life for themselves and their children in Scotland and they built a wonderful football club. It’s a precious gift they left us and it’s our duty to care for it. It’s also our duty to make it a place anyone feels welcome. Despite others claiming to be ‘Rapeepo’ it is Celtic who is the true club of the people in this city.  Walfrid saw his club as a bridge between cultures, a vehicle to help assimilate the Irish into Scottish society. To be true to his founding principles, his club must welcome people are of all faiths and none, of all ethnicities and backgrounds. That is the essence of a club of the people not some narrow exclusive group who think they’re better than other people. That was tried by another club who in the end collapsed under the weight of their own arrogance and greed.

It heartens me greatly to hear the enthusiasm and affection people like Billy No’Well have for Celtic. It’s matched by many thousands of people all over the world. I’m proud to be a Celt and to be part of this amazing story. Celtic FC is truly more than just a club.

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