Kyogo Furuhashi has been at Celtic a month, and already he gets it. Not only does he play the way we like to see our strikers perform, but he has a clear understanding of the ethos of our club and the supporters, as he proved today in his message to us.
“I’ll never walk alone,” it said, and how right that is.
This is the time when the Celtic support is at its best, in standing resolutely behind a player who is already the target for some of the less than savoury elements in this country.
This is not just about backing up our player, this club understands the plight of the immigrant, the foreigner, the stranger in a strange land. Kyogo can already see Japanese flags at the matches. We’re not asking him to assimilate, and make himself part of this … we are a club which embraces his culture and pays it the respect that it is due.
And that’s what Kyogo has grasped already; that we’re a little bit different, a little bit special. When we put out there that this is “a club open to all” it’s not a marketing slogan or a gimmick or a something we’re doing for show, or as a smokescreen to cover something rotten … it’s meant, it’s heartfelt, it’s genuine, it’s real, it’s an expression of who we are.
We’d have done it anyway, of course, but anything that helps him settle, that helps him feel welcome, is clearly all to the good. In addition, Scotland has rallied round him with even the Ibrox club dishing out the maximum penalty to the offenders.
Ange has just put his own thoughts on the record, and they are, as you might imagine, outstanding.
“To be honest, it saddens me a lot because I’m the one who’s brought him over,” the manager said. “I spent three-and-a-half years in Japan, and I was a foreigner, and I was welcomed with open arms over there.
“I know how polite and respectful the Japanese people were, and I’m the one who brought Kyogo here. I’m sure his experience is the extreme opposite of what’s been portrayed in the last 48 hours. I’ve been talking to him and he loves being here, he loves the city, he loves the way everyone’s embraced him.
“But it’s not about education and people are more than well aware of what’s right and wrong – just be a decent human being and treat people with respect.”
Ange’s comments show not only his basic humanity but his intolerance of anything even resembling bigotry or hatred. I think the most important part of this is his rejection of the idea that this is something people need educating on … we live in the 21st century and people shouldn’t need to be told this stuff or have it explained to them any longer.
These two men are already excellent ambassadors for Celtic.
We are lucky to have them both.