For any fan of the Old Firm hate is a fact of life. We hate them, they hate us. No news there. Usually attempting to judge which side is less bigoted and hateful than the other is akin to choosing a winner between torture and mutilation. However, I have of late a growing, nagging feeling of grudging respect towards those blue shirted hordes of Mordor. It stems from a realisation I had recently at Parkhead that things are changing. I suddenly noticed our songs are no longer all about the Sectarian divide, that the tricolour wasn’t as prevalent and that we, as a collective fanbase, are moving slowly away from Scotlands shame. As society and legislation demands this shift, we are slowly responding. Rangers, on the other hand, don’t seem to be close to relinquishing their grip on the hatred. So seemingly steadfast is their absolute abhorrence for us that it remains in full force regardless of the consequences. For example, it was only in April of this year they were fined £35,000 and forced to play their next European away game without travelling fans due to being found guilty of Sectarian singing during a love-in against PSV Eindhoven last season. And they were also clearly warned beforehand too and it still failed to stop them.
Along with UEFA, the Scottish Football Association has pledged to take a tough stance with “severe” sanctions imposed on those found guilty of perpetuating sectarianism, on either side. In the wake of the events of last season and in particular the invective towards Neil Lennon, the debate has also reached Political level with further discipline promised from Holyrood too. Even with these combined swords of Damocles hanging over Ibrox and Parkhead the perceived mentality at Rangers remains unflinching. I have to say that, although I obviously don’t condone sectarianism, I do have a degree of admiration for the unrelenting staunchness of their overtly dogmatic position.
After all, Tom and Jerry would have been rubbish if it was just called Jerry the Mouse wouldn’t it?
Throughout Scottish society the great green and blue divide is present. Like a shameful slobbering beast bellowing bigotry, songs and half-truths from a distant past. Written off as beyond redemption for years and intensified into acute focus by the successful co-dependent nature of Glasgows ‘Ugly Sisters’. The ‘two team league’ and religious angle has put the stakes at a vertigo inducing height which more often than not transcends a mere footballing rivalry. Oh yes, we have world class hatred here in Scotland on both sides but Rangers, in recent years, it would seem have become the undisputed title holders of that tainted crown.
Last season there was a real danger that Rangers would go into administration. The papers and message boards were full of it and as expected we gloated, taunted and celebrated their potential demise. In reality though, deep, deep down we knew that without them it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Underneath it all we wouldn’t have liked to see them disappear. After all, Tom and Jerry would have been rubbish if it was just called Jerry the Mouse wouldn’t it? Reverse that situation and they would have wanted us annihilated. Removed from the league, bankrupt and the stadium torn down. No doubt about it. They would still be dancing in the rubble as they won every single title in Scotland, singing their songs of King Billy, The Pope and Bobby Sands whilst inevitably failing miserably at the first hurdle in Europe. The hatred within the Old Firm borders unpleasantly on the edges of ethnic cleansing at times. But the chilling unofficial Rangers motto “We Are the People” leaves no doubt as to their collective stance towards the historic Irish/Catholic Diaspora. A standpoint against a distant heritage that in reality is now so diluted it barely reflects the actual social or religious make up of our fans and hasn’t done for the best part of 50 years.
Scarves burned, death threats, season tickets ripped up, even the official kit man allegedly refused to put out his kit or give him the pre-match chocolate bar
This should come as no surprise to any Celtic fan. History shows us that Rangers are a club built on foundations in opposition to Celtic, not through a defining identity of their own. Celtic was founded in 1888 by Irish/Catholic immigrants and for the first four years had a pro-Catholic recruitment policy, scrapped in 1892 as it became apparent that it wasn’t working. Rangers however, were founded sixteen years prior to us in 1872 with no obvious links to any section of society or religion (taking their name, as legend would have it, from an English rugby club). Their identity as a Protestant club grew over the early years through a connection with Freemasonry and the Orange Order and in direct opposition to the popularity of Celtic. To the point at which in 1912 they developed their own sectarian recruitment policy which lasted until 1989 when Mo Johnson infamously crossed the divide. Even then, that whole saga was noticeable for the more vociferous reaction from his own Rangers supporters than the jilted Celtic fans. Scarves burned, death threats, season tickets ripped up, even the official kit man allegedly refused to put out his kit or give him the pre-match chocolate bar given to the rest of the squad. Vitriol that we just couldn’t match. Only just though.
Sigmund Freud defined hate as an ego state that wishes to annihilate the source of its unhappiness. He went on to further define ego states as a collection ofperceptions, cognitions and affects in organised clusters. Rangers are a club founded and defined in opposition and hated of Celtic and remain in this ego state to this day and it’s a situation that doesn’t look like it’s due to heal any time soon. Therapists would widely recognise than in order to progress from an unhealthy ego state (hate for example) there needs to be a cognitive shift that relies quite heavily on the development of an internal diplomacy. That diplomacy towards us will never be present amongst the support of Rangers. In recent years Celtic have developed hints of this internal diplomacy, we’ve mostly stopped singing our songs of terrorism and hate (at home games at least) and a shift in what’s acceptable at Parkhead can be seen and heard. Glimpses of a collective internal diplomacy have taken hold and whilst it is far from a solution to the problem it is a tangible change. Not so at Rangers, if anything the resistance seems stronger in the past 10 years.
Hopefully in time both sides can take a step back from this embarrassing state of affairs.
The truth is that these days, in my opinion, Rangers hate us more than we hate them. That no matter what the consequences they will man the barricades at the blue wall of hated and continue to fight the fight regardless of self preservation. Not only is this an enormous back handed compliment it is also something to grudgingly respect. Their determination to hate us more than we could hate them is a thing of grotesque wonder. We’re no angels either but what remains to be seen is whether this groundswell of anti-sectarian feeling will change the Old Firm dynamic as a whole. Will the alleged sanctions finally crush their resolve? Will they be forced to mellow in line with us? Hopefully in time both sides can take a step back from this embarrassing state of affairs. In the meantime all we can do is absorb the bile, try to concentrate on the football only and reluctantly salute the sheer bloody mindedness and blinkered madness of it all.
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