Tuesday, 16 September 2003

- Mad about fitba

Scotland has never won the World Cup -and, let's be honest: most likely never will. In the last 15 years, their club teams -until Celtic played the UEFA Final Cup last May- always failed miserably in Europe, being kicked out in the early stages, before the psychological Christmas deadline. The best players would move to the English Premiership, and the Scottish game is, even now, ridiculed by BBC London-based sports commentators.

But they love it. Their passion for football is undeniable. If their players were as good as their supporters, Scotland then would win World Cups with the same frequency as Brazil.

And what a game tonight. Glasgow Rangers came from behind, scoring two goals in the last 15 minutes when they were pretty much being outclassed by the talented but younger Stuttgart team. What a comeback. Well done Rangers! And let's hope Celtic can make it against Bayer Munich tomorrow -admittedly, a better team.

But make no mistake: despite sincerely wishing all success to Scottish clubs in Europe, including Celtic and Rangers, I find the Celtic-Rangers so-called rivalry disgusting, sick and pathetic.

Rivalry is what happens between Inter and AC Milan. Or between the London clubs, or Man Utd and Man City, Lazio and Roma, Juventus and Torino, etc. Even the deep dislike, tense relationship and historical enmity between Barcelona and Real Madrid cannot be compared with the profound, deep and violent hate that exist between the set supporters of these two Glasgow clubs. None of the tension and superficial hate that I have witnessed as a regular season ticket at Barcelona for over 11 years is comparable to what happens in Glasgow when these to rivals play each other. It is scary, take my word for it.

In case you didn't know, Glasgow Rangers is the club whose supporters are traditionally Protestants loyal to the Union (between Scotland and England). Glasgow Celtic is the club whose support traditionally comes from the Irish Catholic community and their descendants. In the West Coast of Scotland, the rivalry, the hate, is taken to levels that make the whole thing a complete put-off for any outsider with a bit of common sense. My advice if you ever come to Glasgow: never take sides between the two. Most often than not, it will ruin your night.

Of course, sectarianism is the secret shame of Scotland, and I am so sorry that this has been the subject of my second post. It is an active minority, on both sides, but the cancer permeates to the wider society. And that is why politicians are so cowardly afraid of tackling the issue. They fear that one side of the divide, whether actively sectarian or just a passive individual with football/family links, will perceive any legal moves as being biased. The mistrust, the fear and plain discrimination is still a current issue in the country. It is as it worst in Glasgow and surrounding areas. It is social paranoia: they feel under threat from the other side, and thus the most paranoid of both sides hold Orange or Hibernian marches. They claim to be good Catholics/Scottish/Irish or loyal Christians/Protestants/Scottish/British. Wrong. They are ignorant, narrow-minded and bigoted; none of them Christian. A liability to this country. Nutters all of them.

But this little secret should not put you off of visiting this most vibrant and friendly European cities. I have been for over 3 years in Glasgow now, and never had a problem. And I go to football games every now and then and I go partying quite a lot. Despite all its social problems (sectarianism, unemployment, poverty, etc. ), Glasgow is a great place to live.

Glaswegians are very, very friendly. Whether you are in the city as a tourist, as a student, or in business, or just arrived to live and work -as I did- people will help you or they will get you in touch with someone who will. But they, the majority, don't know how to get rid of this bigoted minority of people. Which is a shame.

And the problem is that it may never go away. As proof, read this news report from the BBC. Is it not discouraging when two University students get involved in sectarian behaviour? A medical student and a law student: two of the most respected professions in our society. Describing it as discouraging is quite an understatement.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

aright man, nice speil, although i think you'l find scottish football teams have not failed miserably in europe, and have infact proved sucessfull beyond their means on a number of occasions, largely with local players. aberdeen beat real madrid in the 1983 UEFA final before going onto win the cup winners cup the same year. celtic also won the european cup in 1967, i think rangers won soemthing aswell but who cares right.

cheers pal