Thursday night. Rosenborg. We’ve played them enough times recently that the clubs have developed a kind of friendship. That’s all to the good. Our fans are a friendly bunch, and we make alliances everywhere we go.
One of the places we’ve come to view as a second home is Villarreal.
Sevco visits there the same night, kicking off before us.
I’ll be amazed, frankly, if that game passes off without disorder from Sevco’s marauding band of neds. The last time an Ibrox club got this far in Europe they left mayhem in their wake, and they did so with a regularity that was depressing.
The media, of course, blamed Chelsea fans and other undesirables from England, never once explaining why supporters of that club would choose to follow Rangers abroad instead of their own team. I always thought there was a bigger question than that though.
What is it about the Ibrox teams that would make so many assorted scum-bags jump on board and believe they’d be welcome? Because that’s always been the flaw in the argument; why Rangers? Why Sevco? Why aren’t these “Wigan fans” or “Chelsea fans” or whatever else the media says they are, following Aberdeen and causing mayhem in their colours? How come we don’t get them traipsing along in our slipstream?
I’ve seen Sevco fan forums discuss European visits as if they were invasions. They hate foreigners, all but those on the far-right. These were the Peepul who made Nazi salutes in Israel, and then have the cheek to brandish Star of David flags in response to our support for Palestine. They are a backward, mixed up mob who don’t know how to behave.
And they sneer at us, endlessly, for the way we try to make friends. The point of it goes right over their heads. In years gone by, as we’ve raised money for Hillsborough, unfurled a banner for Miklos Feher at Benfica, helped out the fishermen of Vigo, as we’ve formed bonds and alliances with clubs like Dortmund and Barcelona they’ve been watching from the side-lines, mocking us for “chasing ambulances” and being “desperate to be loved.”
In the weeks and months to come, try to remember that. When we’re in Austria let’s make new friends. Leipzig are not a popular club in Germany, but that’s no reason for us to go there and wind them up. Their fans are football people just like we are.
I feel daft saying this actually, as I never expect us to be anything other than at our best.
Even in those so-called “hostile atmospheres” we get on just fine with folk. When we visited PSG back in the sands of time, before they were a European super-club, I heard ghastly stories of fans who wanted to fight with everybody; indeed, my old man, making his first ever European trip, said they were in a volatile mood before the match started. By the end of it, they were swapping scarves with us and one of the local papers called us the best visiting support they’d ever seen.
Sevconuts will highlight one-off incidents, such as what happened in Amsterdam, without providing the context to it. I don’t care how they spin it or how the media dissembles either; I listened to Chick Young describe a riot in Blackburn, started by our fans, on the Road to Seville campaign; I called my old man who was there. He knew nothing about it and no story to corroborate Young has ever emerged, not to this day.
I can only conclude that he is a liar who invented that tale for reasons of his own.
No other explanation makes sense.
We know what we are. We leave behind happy memories and good stories. We know what they are. They leave behind wreckage and the media here makes their excuses. We know the value of having the respect and friendship of teams across Europe.
They want to make a similar impression to that which certain elements of the English support do when they visit “Johnny Foreigner.” Darren Wells, a notorious ex-hooligan, once said that “even if they didn’t know you were visiting you certainly made sure they remembered you when you’d left.”
Manchester. Pamplona. Barcelona. Eindhoven. Maribor. Villarreal.
The list goes on. Those places will not soon forget the “visit” of beer gutted yobs in blue jerseys.
Trouble has flared here at home on nights when their blood is up; two Croatian fans being stabbed in Glasgow when Osijek visited is the tip of the iceberg, only the most visible, and high profile, of a number of events, many of which aren’t even reported.
I wish I believed that Scottish football could breathe easily here, but I don’t. In the absence of their fans being able to behave it’s important that others are at their very finest. Because if we’re not then their problem becomes a “Scottish football” problem, their guilt becomes a shared one, the chaos they unleash becomes part of an overall pattern that drags us all into their gutter.
Do not let them do it, Bhoys and Ghirls.
Remember who we are.
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