At the weekend, an object was chucked from amidst the Celtic supporters at Parkhead. The reaction of the fans near the incident was telling; they pointed out the culprit to the police and the stewards and the perpetrator was quickly arrested and removed from the ground.
I know it’s all the rage right now, but I seriously doubt that this individual will be invited for cakes and coffee and “rehabilitated.”
He’s done. He will probably never, legally, set foot inside the ground again in his life.
His future is watching home league games on illegal streams with all the time in the world to ponder what he did wrong.
This is exactly the right time for our fans to be self-policing.
Angry eyes are watching us right now, and people are trying to work out how to drag us into the swamp in which the Ibrox club is sinking fast.
UEFA’s decision to inflict a partial stadium closure on them has unleashed the furies and shown the world that this is a support with which something has gone badly wrong.
In contrast to this, the Ibrox supporters had a banner at the game against St Mirren, in which they proclaimed themselves innocent of any wrong-doing.
The Union Bears, who the club has unequivocally blamed for this, were defended as “their only crime was loyalty.”
Which made me think, “They’ve spelled bigotry wrong.”
Their “crime” actually was sectarianism and racist chanting … an actual crime, by the way, and not just one that falls foul of football’s regulations.
This is anti-Irish racism … and that takes all different forms, and it is not just confined to the Ibrox stands.
Here’s the other thing about anti-Irish racism … it is forever evolving.
What started out as “no blacks, no Irish” signs along the wharfs and quays now takes the form of Irish jokes and the labelling of people as “Plastic Paddies.”
Imagine using the same label against Jews who had never been to Israel.
Celtic is an Irish-Scottish club, and I very deliberately put Irish first because that’s where our roots are. We were born here, but we do not just “identify” with that land across the water, it’s quite literally part of who we are, which is reflected in the name, the crest and the tricolour which forever flies at Celtic Park.
And at some point in the past, people at Ibrox began to very strongly define their clubs as the opposite of all of that … and this, for decades now, has been given voice in the songs at that ground.
Part of Ibrox is being shut down because of one of those songs, and a lot of their supporters are simply infuriated that UEFA should want to impose its rules on them.
The Union Bears released a statement the other night which summed up the twisted logic of their position.
The Ibrox board should have “defended” them and instead has hung them out to dry; that’s their logic. Their club should have charged UEFA’s guns on their behalf, and why not?
They get away with it here in Scotland. Why shouldn’t anti-Irish hate, and by extension the hatred of Celtic, be allowed expression in Europe too?
They are focussed on nonsensical grievances which have precisely nothing to do with the central facts here, and the central facts are clear enough to anyone with half a brain cell.
Their club has been punished accordingly for this wrongdoing, and because that punishment affects their bottom line, and because the next one will be worse, the board there have finally realised what all of us realised many years ago; this poison is killing them.
It is a slow acting poison to be sure, but it will do the job just the same.
Why is this of any interest to Celtic, and to Celtic fans, beyond the obvious; that these are our rivals and what happens to them affects us in one way or another?
I’ll tell you why this is of interest – in fact, I’d use the word concern – to us; it’s because the poisonous songs from over there are only going to get worse.
Robbed, again, of their favourite party tunes there are already people amongst their fan-base who are using this moment to up the ante.
And Celtic are their targets, as we were the first time UEFA sanctioned an Ibrox club and made it clear that they would continue to until either the evil songs went or they were left with no choice but to close the ground or throw the club out of Europe altogether.
The last time The Billy Boys went, the last time UEFA banished it from the stands, they changed one warped tune for another.
Suddenly the singing at Ibrox was not about being up to their knees in Irish Catholic blood, but instead was a suggestion to our entire support, the institution of Celtic itself and the Irish of Scotland as a whole that “the famine is over why don’t you go home?”
People tend to forget that, but it’s true.
The Famine Song arose because UEFA had forced them to alter the song-sheet.
It was as if the hatred at Ibrox evolved from one form into another, and if you look at the online forums right now you see that process starting all over again, and the institution of Celtic is once again at the heart of it.
It is the policy of this site to provide links to most things, and so I will do so to individual threads on Ibrox fan forums where these things are being talked about.
I will not link to individual posts though. Whether you have a strong enough stomach to go over there and see for yourself is something I’ll leave to each individual.
On those forums, in the last few days, they have engaged in a vast blame game that seeks to put Celtic at the heart of this crisis.
They have suggested that the Discipline and Control Board at UEFA is a creature of our roving CEO Peter Lawwell, and no amount of talking sense – and some of their fans have tried – has made the slightest bit of difference to those who believe it.
They have accused FARE of being involved in this, although that organisation had precisely nothing to do with this case. They see the ghost of FARE everywhere, and go on and on about the fabled FARE-Celtic nexus; it is a conspiracy theory that spawns both Ibrox operations.
The conversation shifted to The Green Brigade, and an illogical discussion about how our fans are allowed to put the word f@nian on a banner but they are not allowed to use the same word in a song. Of course they aren’t.
Their song is about killing people and wading in their blood; as I said in an article this weekend, it’s not the word “f@nian” itself but the word “b@stard” which you often hear after it which elevates it to the level of a criminal act, a hate crime.
Their club is being praised for telling the fans to stop, but read carefully what the club is actually saying and you don’t see actual condemnation of the act.
You see the Ibrox board taking action only because it is now getting them into trouble.
Nobody at Ibrox has yet said what is blindingly obvious to every right thinking person; those songs are just plain wrong.
They have no place in a civilised society.
Until someone at Ibrox actually expresses the appropriate level of disgust for the act itself, and not just for how being punished for it will affect the club, it is impossible to take them seriously here.
And worse is to come, and I’m willing to bet that when it does the club will say and do nothing on it unless it is forced to.
If you think that there cannot be anything worse than naked sectarian and racist behaviour, I’d say to you to wait a while. We’re about to see the full-on weaponization of child abuse, for ditties on that grim and awful subject – as reprehensible as this sounds – will be their new Famine Song, the next evolution towards the gutter.
They’re talking about it already; indeed, many of them were talking about how to “get the word out there” months ago, as if every major newspaper wasn’t already talking about the Celtic Boys Club case, with many of them following every thread in it.
But their supporters believe that the world at large is ignorant of this, because people are “sweeping it under the carpet”.
Well, they’re doing a bad job of it as there’s a story on this virtually every week. Still, some sections of the Ibrox support believe that “educating” the world about the evil institution that is Celtic is something they should be pursuing.
So there will be more banners.
There will be more sick chants.
You will, in all probability, hear a song or two on the subject.
And they will be especially vocal in European matches, because that’s the audience they think really needs to know … and of course they’re not going to be able to sing, in that arena, the kind of stuff they will continue to sing, without sanction, here at home.
I don’t expect Celtic to comment on that stuff, not at first.
The club will not be blind to what’s going on – indeed, I know for a fact that they are fully aware of what some on the Ibrox forums are talking about – but they will bide their time, because they know what that section of the Ibrox fan base still appears not to.
If they do this, nobody will think that Celtic is a warped and evil institution, but they will believe that using child abuse to score cheap points is a warped and evil thing for football fans to do.
The spotlight will shine on their ghastly ideology … and it may even shine an unwelcome light on similar scandals involving their own club, and its grotesque response to them.
Believe me, at that point even their board will have to act.
The trouble is, the Union Bears statement – in which they actually describe themselves, and accurately in my view, which is the problem the club faces – as “the voice of Ibrox Stadium” – makes it clear that they feel they’ve been sold down the river and they are in no mood for any compromises, even with their own directors.
So even if the Ibrox club does decide that such banners and songs are a step too far, I wouldn’t be too sure that their supporters would pay a blind bit of notice to them.
The initial plan seems to involve greeting our supports and the TV audience to an entire afternoon of this depraved filth come Sunday.
Now, it has to be said that a lot of their supporters are appalled by this idea, as most right thinking people are … but the hard-core seems determined to push on with it regardless, so I reckon our supporters will have to endure it.
Beyond that, they are talking about doing it on Thursday night against Legia, in part as a message to UEFA in a bizarre effort, as it comes across, to focus the European football authorities on an issue that isn’t even within their purview.
At some point you wonder if sanity will dawn here. At some point you wonder if all this will start to look, to them, how it looks to the rest of us.
Until then, our club is very much in the crosshairs of the Ibrox lunatic fringe.
It will not help them get out from under UEFA’s watchful eye.
It will not help to rebuild their reputation. It will not get them the 3000 seats back or avert a stadium closure if they do it again.
Indeed, it might well heap even more disgrace on them. That’s not the point though.
This support is angry, and when they are angry they lash out.
Our fans had better be on their toes this weekend.
It was already ugly.
It’s going to get a hell of a lot uglier as this week goes on.