None so blind
I really must stop listening to Radio Clyde’s football phone in as the show often leaves me perplexed. The quality of callers is usually pretty dire and the so called ‘Pundits’ have no more in depth knowledge about Scottish football than the average fan. This weekend a caller raised the issue of the fairly obvious sectarian singing from supporters of the new club at Kirkcaldy. The knee jerk reaction of the panel kicked in right away and Celtic were duly dragged into a debate about the racist and sectarian songs aired by the knuckle dragging element at Starks Park. Mr Keevins’ informed the listening public that ‘The Soldier’s Song has no place at Celtic Park.’ He failed to correct a caller who phoned in to complain that Hibs fans had showed up at Ibrox with ‘an IRA flag’ which was in fact an Irish tricolour. The panel then informed us with a straight face and quivering tone that Celtic were the ‘Catholic club’ of Glasgow. I’m sure that’s news to the thousands of non-Catholic Celtic fans, many of whom I know personally. I’m sure the many non-Catholic players and officials who have served Celtic with such distinction from 1888 to the present day would raise their eyebrows at such patent nonsense. No one can deny Celtic’s Irish and Catholic roots and they are a source of pride not shame. The Club was basically founded by the teaching arm of the church to provide material aid for hungry and impoverished children in Glasgow’s east end but as Willie Maley was quick to point out in his book ‘The story of Celtic’ (1938)…
"Much has been made in certain quarters about our religion, but for forty-eight years we have played a mixed team, and some of the greatest Celts we have had did not agree with us in our religious beliefs, although we have never at any time hidden what these are. Men of the type of McNair, Hay, Lyon, Buchan, Cringan, the Thomspons, or Paterson soon found out that broadmindedness which is the real stamp of the good Christian existed to its fullest at Celtic Park, where a man was judged by his football alone."
This clear signal that the club was open to all has been reiterated down the decades by Celtic time and time again. In 1894 a motion to set a quota on the number of non-Catholic players in the Celtic side was thrown out with considerable scorn by the club. In the early days more strident men took the huff at Celtic’s openness and formed the short lived ‘Glasgow Hibernians’ which aped the Irish and Catholic ethos of the Edinburgh’s Hibs side of the time. Glasgow Hibernians folded due to lack of support and Celtic rose to greatness with a mixed team and, as the years advanced, an increasingly mixed support. To claim that Celtic is a ‘Catholic club’ is simply wrong. They are an inclusive organisation rightly proud of their heritage and no amount of sanctimonious drivel from radio pundits should or could change that. To try and seek moral equivalence between the racist ‘Famine song,’ the fascist ‘Billy Boys,’ bigoted trash like ‘No Pope of Rome’ and a song such as the Irish national anthem is not only insulting, it is repugnant.
I wish to God Scotland had moved on from this tedious and embarrassing situation. It seems somehow to suits elements in the media to promote the narrative of the bad ‘Old Firm’ to portray the two clubs and their supporters as two sides of the same coin, or as one Aberdeen fan put it ‘two cheeks of the same arse’ but closer scrutiny shows this not to be the case. Yes, a minority of Celtic supporters have a fondness for singing the odd Rebel song at matches, a practice which I personally find outdated and counter-productive but such songs are not, as they are often portrayed in the Scottish media, ‘songs of hate.’ I have stated before that it would be fairly straightforward for Celtic’s support to simply leave the ‘Rebs’ at home and sing the many great Celtic songs we have in our repertoire. For fans of the Govan club this is more problematic as it seems the majority of their songs have little to do with their club or football. There is also a worrying silence from their board over events at Raith Rovers perhaps they feel they are unpopular enough without adding to it.
When we see the ugly incident on the Paris Metro involving Chelsea fans turning into a media feeding frenzy, one has to wonder why very little is said nationally about the songs heard with regularity at Rangers games this season. Perhaps it is the target group being abused which holds them back. If they were singing about being ‘up to their knees’ in Muslim or Jewish blood, things might be different? This is where the Scottish media fails so badly. By portraying it as an ‘Old firm’ problem where both sides are locked in some mythical historical feud, it deflects and dilutes the impact of what is in reality old fashioned racism. The lumpen group of racist bigots which attaches itself to Rangers FC has no equivalent at Celtic Park no matter how the tawdry and dishonourable hacks try to spin it.
There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.