Many of us were dreading the weekend’s game as much for what might happen off the field as for what might happen on it. In the immediate aftermath of the match, there was some welcome news from inside the stadium that police had made relatively few arrests.
Reports from around the city were that the atmosphere was tense in places but that serious disorder had been largely averted.
Every one of us breathed a sigh of relief.
Today we’ve probably all read, with a great deal of despair, about the Celtic supporter who was stabbed in the face after the match. With typical sensationalism, a lot of the media outlets are saying that the crime was perpetrated by a “Rangers fan.” As if this wasn’t bad enough, there’s a small section of the Celtic support which seems pathologically determined to make this cowardly act the work of their support as a whole.
Let’s be clear; this was the action of a single, sick, demented individual, someone who didn’t need an excuse to commit a violent offence, but used the cover of a football match and the camouflage of a football shirt in order to do so.
This isn’t a real “football fan.”
This was a nut-job masquerading as one.
It’s important that we understand the distinction and call a halt to this demonising of a whole support. That leads us nowhere except to mortuary slabs, gravesides and more grieving families. Sooner or later, you have to call a halt to all this.
Acknowledging some facts would be a good start.
There are people out there whose views are so warped that they can be moved to commit gruesome anti-social acts. It doesn’t help when reckless former bosses and players stir the soup and talk about using “bitterness” and hatred as a motivational tool. Equally, it makes the skin crawl to think that a rational human being actually made a banner about paedophilia and brought it to a football match to bait the opposition supporters.
But we have our own small element that thinks the same way.
These people are not representative of the whole.
Whenever I write about the Ibrox support I make it clear my criticism and occasional venom is reserved only for that section to whom hate comes naturally.
To quote Liam Neeson, in the brilliant Michael Collins, “I hate them for making hate necessary.”
But I know the difference between those who do and ordinary decent football supporters.
I will not, and you should not, allow one sick individual and a monstrous act to define all rival fans as uniquely evil or twisted.
We work and live and eat and sleep and socialise with “the enemy.” Because “the enemy” isn’t really our enemy at all, and sometimes that gets forgotten in the hullabaloo that surrounds a fixture like this one. What’s needed here is perspective, and a big deep breath.
The person who did this needs to caught and prosecuted as soon as is humanely possible because that person is more than just an anti-social goon fuelled by too much booze and a twisted view of the Beautiful Game.
That person is lethal, a walking time bomb, a danger to everyone.
But that person is not a football fan.
Please, please, please do not devalue what we love by painting him as one. Not only does it bebase the rest of us, and our game, but it’s an insult to the victim and an affront to decency, and the evil scumbag who did this has damaged those things enough as it is.