A few weeks can be a long time in Scottish fitba and the focus for the time being is on the upcoming Glasgow derby with the usual hysteria being fanned by the media in a way that keeps the fixture as close to their beloved Old Firm tag as possible.
The semi final will take care of itself and as has been the case since Rangers were liquidated and Sevco born in the bottom tier, if Celtic bring anything close to their A-game we win comfortably. In the weeks following we play Sevco again in a game that could have seen us win the title against them at our own place.
There’s not a Celtic fan alive that wouldn’t take immense pleasure in that outcome, myself included. Old club or new, I still enjoy beating them and I presume I’ll be gutted if they ever beat us. Like many, I was disappointed at the lengths the authorities went to in order to avoid it.
Are we really unable to be trusted to watch a game of football without harming people if we don’t like the outcome of the game?
Surely we’ve moved past the hatred that dominated much of the narrative around the so-called ‘Old Firm’ fixture? The vast majority of us would be appalled to be accused of bigotry of any kind, but unfortunately that isn’t universal and there are those among us who hang onto that hatred and nurture it as if their whole identity depends on it.
Maybe it does.
The perfect vehicle for nurturing hatred of any kind is the echo chamber that we call ‘social media”. In recent weeks there have been a few threads and discussion which I witnessed or took part in that reminded me just how deep rooted the problem of sectarianism is and how racism and the threat of violence is often scoffed at by “journalists” who report their own opinions and wishes as fact and often lack any semblance of objectivity.
The first thread in question was one in which it had been announced that Scott Brown’s testimonial would be against Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland team. On top of that came the magnificent gesture from Brown to donating the earnings to the family of former Celt and Eire international Liam Miller who had so tragically passed away in recent months after a battle with cancer. A lovely decision which you’d think would be applauded by all.
Not a chance!
No sooner was it announced but the online lunatic fringe of another club was calling it a direct provocation of their community!
Utterly bonkers, but tragically predictable.
The thing that surprised me more was the unwillingness of other fans of the same club to condemn these lunatics.
Let’s be clear, we all know what it is about a game between Celtic and Ireland that offends them. Any celebration of Irishness has their eyes swivelling but to be unable to put that aside in this instance, given the circumstances, is extreme even for them. Not only offended by the way, no, it was actually an attack on their community!
Jesus wept, victim blaming at its least sophisticated.
This takes me onto the next bit of social media news that caught my attention; the MSP James Dornan receiving an email threatening that a ‘Smash A Feni@n’ event had been organised with the obvious undertone being that he was a target.
Now in all likelihood this was a couple of wee fannies getting up to mischief in their maws basement with Google Draw, but given that a recent march by a fan group attached to Sevco was advertised by a leaflet using similar terminology and violent images and given the online abuse this particular MSP takes from people with Sevco badges, Loyalist symbols and Union flags as their twitter avatars then it has to be given a certain amount of credibility and at the very least be roundly condemned by all parties. You’d think so anyway, right?
Nope! On every Twitter thread and in every forum, James Dornan was accused of fabricating the email with the intention of making the Unionist community look bad! The utter irony being that all they had to do was condemn the email and its contents and any plan to make them look bad would have backfired spectacularly.
Instead we once again have the public spectacle of victim blaming and gas lighting, the favoured tools of the bully and domestic abuser.
Not only that but we have journalists active on social media scoffing that “Smash A Feni@n day” is just a silly wee joke and we’re all over-reacting.
Now, like I said, I’m not suggesting this was a real thing but until it’s been confirmed as a hoax it’s pretty appalling to have journalists nudging and winking that we are somehow being stupid, as if the victims of sectarian violence don’t exist.
But imagine the threat had been to one of our Jewish or black MSP’s using similar hateful terminology? Would our media be openly making jokes about it? Of course they wouldn’t.
One last thing that I noticed, which kind of brings me back on track to the game itself and the actual health and safety of those watching and taking part in it.
We had the annual re-emergence of the James Mclean to Celtic story. In normal circumstances when a player is linked with Celtic we chat on Twitter and forums about their strengths and weaknesses as a player, their mentality, their price etc etc but with Mclean I noticed a comment that I had previously made myself on a thread along the lines of “he would need to be off his head to bring his family up here after what happened to our previous ‘outspoken’ Irish Catholic employee” referring to the bullets and devices sent to the family home of Neil Lennon.
Reading back the comment, I had the realisation that I was in Scotland in 2018 and here I was discussing the possibility of a football player not being able to move here to work because his family’s safety couldn’t be guaranteed.
And discussing it as if its normal!!
Is that how desensitised to this issue we’ve become? That is an absolutely shocking indictment on our society. But do I believe it’s a fair reflection on the general public? No, probably not, but that doesn’t mean that a sizable number of the general public don’t share these sentiments.
Do I believe that some of these lunatics could go over the edge and hurt someone after being humiliated at a football game?
Absolutely I do, which is why in spite of my disappointment I kind of understand why the SPFL took their decision.
Let’s be honest, if the league is wrapped up against Hibs the previous week are you going to enjoy yourself any less the following week against Sevco?
Of course not. We’ll get our laughs either way.
Instead make them attend our title party, and never let them forget it.
Christopher Cominato is a moderator on The CelticBlog Facebook group. This is his first article for the blog.
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