Date: 22nd February 2019 at 3:25pm
Written by:

John 3:16.

It’s a sign often seen at American sporting events, and relates to a Bible passage which says that God sent Jesus, his only son, to save humanity.

It’s not a notice you see at Scottish football grounds, even though it seems that many spectators are obsessed with religion.

Steve Clarke’s press conference following the Ibrox cup game again put front and centre the sectarian abuse many people face, given the shouts that he was a ‘Fenian bastard’.

This came days after Kilmarnock player Kris Boyd decried the Celtic supporters that called him an ‘Orange bastard’.

And in all of this the reaction was the same – many Celtic fans were outraged at the first and unconcerned at the second.

Equally certain the Ibrox supporters couldn’t care less about Clarke’s abuse but were furious at Boyd’s treatment.

Some supporters – on both sides – attempt to hide behind the specific words used, stating that no-one actually said Catholic or Protestant and that these phrases mean something else.

In this instance they claim that Fenian doesn’t equate to Catholic but instead is a nineteenth century Irish nationalist or that Orange simply expresses disdain for the Orange Order.

And you know what?

In some cases this is likely a genuine answer, but for large numbers this is simply not the case.

Instead it’s a quick insult, easily aimed at those deemed to be your opponent. The actual meaning of it is very often not even considered, far less actually having religion at its heart.

Most people screaming their abuse are unlikely to regularly set foot inside a Kirk or Chapel, and certainly don’t care about theological differences dividing the Church of Rome and its dissenters.

And this apparent oversight problem – the affliction whereby people only see that which offends them personally whilst ignoring all other wrongdoings – isn’t restricted to chants.

It seems that each day brings with it the fairly easy tabloid fodder of stories about distasteful graffiti concerning one team, followed the next day with similar actions from the opposing side.

These tiresome tales really reflect the fact that teenagers – almost certainly behind most of the actions – often behave foolishly, but instead are used by fans to show the apparent depravity of everyone who supports that team.

But never their own side, of course.

Many of these problems fit into another narrative often espoused about Scottish football, that this is entirely a west coast problem, specifically Celtic and Rangers.

To some extent the religion element of this is true, although it’s naïve to assume that only those with green or blue scarves make sectarian comments.

Neil Lennon’s experiences at Tynecastle quickly disprove that claim.

In a wider sense though, it’s a nonsense.

In recent years numerous clubs – Aberdeen and Motherwell in particular – have taken great delight and joy in the tragedy and outrage of child abuse, singing songs and making banners about it.

Other fans – entirely separate from Glasgow – have been criticised for other forms of hatred. One Falkirk player even complained about racist abuse from his own team’s fans.

The most frustrating element of this is the glaring hypocrisy expressed by many supporters.

The notion that their ‘bad’ actions are terrible, whilst your own side’s ‘bad’ actions are banter, or at least easily dismissed.

If nothing else, it would be refreshing if this insincerity was dropped.

The next time you hear unacceptable chanting at football, whether it’s from your side or the opposition, condemn those that do it regardless of scarf choice.

But spare us the ranting if you’re only interested in criticising those that you dislike. Otherwise, just ignore it.

Indeed seeing as religion apparently heavily features in so many people’s thoughts, another Bible verse seems apt:

“You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Matthew Marr is a Celtic fan and blogger from Glasgow. 

When you loaded this piece you might have seen an option to get notifications; please subscribe to make sure that you never miss an important article again.

You can discuss this and and all the other stories by signing up at the Celtic Noise forum at the above link. This site is one of the three that has pushed for the forum and we urge all this blog’s readers to join it. Show your support for real change in Scottish football, by adding your voice to the debate.