Sunday, 13 April 2014

No one likes us, we don’t care…
Big Kevin isn’t a man to be trifled with. Standing well over six foot tall with a physique sculpted by years of hard, physical labour on the roads, he isn’t a man who suffers fools gladly. He’s also a straight talking guy and it was nice bumping into him recently. ‘How are your boys?’ I asked, ‘Still playing football?’ He nodded, ‘Aye, I was watching them this morning and a guy came up and said he was scouting for a club, ‘asked if the boys could go train with them.’ I smiled encouragingly, ‘Good stuff. What did you say?’ Big Kevin shook his head, ‘I asked what club and the guy said Rangers.’ Before I could ask the obvious question the big man continued, ‘I told him to fuck off, no way any of my boys will be joining that shower.’  Big Kevin’s jaundiced view of the team inhabiting Ibrox Stadium isn’t uncommon among Celtic fans. I asked myself if I’d be happy watching one of my boys wearing their strip and came to a similar conclusion.

The following day I watched the Scottish Cup Semi Final between Dundee United and the artist formerly known as Rangers. I must confess, like all Celtic fans, that I wanted United to win. The singing from some of the supporters in blue reminded me why. Even before a ball had been kicked thousands of voices echoed around the stadium singing….

‘Hullo, Hullo we are the Billy Boys,

Hullo, Hullo you’ll know us by our noise

We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood,

Surrender or you’ll die

For we are the Bridgeton Derry boys.’

Those of you well versed in Glasgow’s history will know that the Billy Boys were a Fascist street gang in the 1920s and 30s who used violence to further their racist and anti -Catholic agenda. That modern Scots feel it’s proper to sing such songs in 2014 is as depressing as it is bewildering. We stand on the cusp of this ancient nation deciding whether to leave the United Kingdom and some seem stuck in a time warp of absurd proportions. It may well be that some sing such songs out of pent up rage about events at Ibrox over the past few years and the complete lack of sympathy from Scottish football fans outside the blue bubble. Nothing unites like having a common enemy and Dundee United fans exemplified this with chants of ‘You’re not Rangers anymore!’ However, there can be no excuse for the sort of bile I and probably hundreds of thousands of others heard on Saturday. You really have to ask where were the Police as thousands sang…’We hate Celtic, Fenian Bastards?’ When viewed against the virtual persecution of the Green Brigade the lack of media attention or even comment on Saturday’s bigotry is perplexing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if these songs were aimed at Muslims, Jews or black people,  there would be a major outcry. Is it not worth mentioning in the press just because it’s only the ‘Fenians’ being abused?

Some things can’t just be cured by passing laws seeking to eradicate them. The UK has some of the most comprehensive anti-racist legislation in the world and yet it isn’t hard to find people in our society expressing racist attitudes. The law sets the threshold of what is acceptable in a society but the real answer to eradicating such attitudes is education and the general population shunning those who practice such bigotry as thick and vulgar. In much the same way as drink driving was once accepted as the norm for some until attitudes were changed by advertising, law enforcement and people actually realising its true cost. In terms of sectarian sentiments being expressed at football, we have the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. This rushed through, ill thought out and rather unnecessary piece of legislation has caused more problems than it has solved. Existing laws would have dealt with any situation arising if the Police simply enforced them.

It seems as if our press and TV media don’t have the stomach to take on the bigots who pollute our air with their poisonous attitudes. They’ll trot out the ‘Two sides of the same coin’ argument, blame it on Catholic schools or otherwise fail to meet the problem for what it is; Poisonous, insidious bigotry which has no place in a modern, educated country. There is no excuse for it, it is simply wrong. The silence from the media and politicians is deafening.  

I can understand big Kevin’s point of view when it came to rebuffing the Rangers scout. Just as he’d understand my view that it was best they lost that game so that our showcase cup final day isn’t turned into another festival of bigotry. It may well be that many who follow the new club hate this stuff as much as I do but they really must speak up against the bile which so pollutes their club or risk being viewed as tacitly supporting it. It may be that some are beyond redemption but the children who sat among that poison on Saturday deserve a better example.

No one likes us, we don’t care’ they sing…. Is it any wonder?

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