Yesterday, Scott Brown sat in front of the press and was forced to explain why our club stuck by Alexander Tonev. His answer made perfect sense everywhere except in the minds of virtue signallers from every corner of the game.
Whenever a footballer is faced with an allegation such as this the world around him reacts. It’s understandable, maybe, but inside the club he plays for there is a much more measured response. If he plays with black footballers, they search their souls for any indication that their team-mate is a racist; they are often the first to defend him.
Because, after all, how can you play in the same dressing room as someone like that? These people are so widely despised that they shouldn’t have a toehold anywhere in the game. The spitters and biters are forgiven before the racists; even now, Scottish football considers Alexander Tonev a racist, everyone but those who actually know the guy well.
At the time, after the SFA found him guilty, Ronny Deila announced that the club considered the matter closed.
“I’m very disappointed,” Ronny said. “He sent his statement out, we believe him and that’s how it is. There’s nothing we can do other than just go on. We have to take the penalty but we still believe it is not right, we believe him. Of course he has a future [at Celtic].”
And what was it that Scott said?
“He has been fine, we all stick by him and know what happened.”
Celtic players “know what happened.” A curious choice of words, right? Tonev has always claimed that with 60,000 fans in the stadium that something he said was misheard or misunderstood. He sat down with Celtic and he told them that, and Celtic believes that.
Ronny Deila went on to make what I believe was the most interesting point in the case, and it’s the one that nobody considered then and nobody is considering now in the case of the Slavia Prague player. “You can’t judge a person when it’s word against word, in my opinion, you will never do that in a real court, so it’s not proof and we still believe him.”
People tend to forget that Tonev was also supported by Aston Villa, who owned his contract, and by the Bulgarian FA who slammed the decision to discipline him and ban him for seven matches on the basis of what they regarded as flimsy evidence.
Celtic believed him. Villa believed him. The Bulgarian FA believed him. The SFA chose to believe Logan. That’s up to them, but it is one of the worst verdicts in the history of Scottish football, a verdict that relied on one man’s word over another’s and who the governing body found more “credible.” Tonev appeared at that meeting without an interpreter and turned down the SFA’s offer of one; that might ultimately have been what sunk him as much as anything.
At the time, Logan went out of his way to sneer at Tonev over the verdict but also made it clear that he wanted to move on from it. It’s abysmal the way this has been dredged up again, but Celtic did invite that with their public stance backing Kamara, an incident where I don’t really see that much of a difference in the respective positions of all involved.
We should have steered well clear of all this; it was a PR own goal in keeping with the ones we’ve been putting in our own net all season long. Unless we’re in possession of compelling evidence of guilt we should have kept our mouths shut and our noses out of it.
Because we did nothing wrong in the Tonev case and have absolutely nothing to defend ourselves for. We have been dragged into this cesspit by our own stupidity, and Ibrox is loving it as they get to play the victims, take our support as evidence of that and still enjoy watching us squirm under the all too obvious allegation that we are hypocrites.
Lawwell attended the racism summit the other day, and was at great pains to point out that our own footballers have suffered racist abuse and how much everyone at Celtic abhors it. The difference is that most of that came from the stands and the country never gave a damn.
Nobody has to lecture us on this matter; we have dealt with racism and bigotry for every day of our history and if it isn’t players and managers being victims of it the supporters themselves could fill books with their own stories.
Catholics and the Irish; there are vast swathes of the population who hate both, and if you’re Irish and Catholic you live your life here knowing that there’s a target painted on your back; it’s Scotland’s grubby little not-so-secret.
Yet here we are, forced to defend ourselves from this putrid, bogus charge. And it’s not even that Brown had to defend the club itself … some segments of the media want to dredge that incident up for even shoddier reasons … accusations of racism against our fans.
This was in the offing right from the start. More on that later.