Coming back this morning, and perusing some of the papers, you would have thought that Celtic fans left carnage in their wake in Madrid. The Daily Record at least carried the story about how one fan was so severely assaulted – an appropriate word I think – by their police that he had to have staples put in his head. Other outlets – and indeed that rag itself – went on the attack over the most innocuous nonsense. It really is quite ridiculous.
As someone who was there, let me share a number of observations.
The first suggestion, made by some of the right wing rags which have decided that our fans must be permanent targets, that we were engaged in “clashes with the police” collapsed under even the most cursory scrutiny.
Not only were there no “clashes” – unless you mean one sided beatings being handed out by thugs in uniform – but Celtic fans everywhere had an excellent time and neither allowed the police to spoil that or worse, were provoked into responding to their heavy-handedness or even outright thuggery.
And you know, when you’re dealing with many thousands of people and a lot of booze is flowing and the authorities needlessly behave like that it’s only going to take a couple of people to react in an aggressive manner to it for things to escalate quickly.
All the ingredients of a potentially bad situation were put in place by the Spanish police … and our fans held up brilliantly. They kept their heads. They continued to do what they had come to town to do; they enjoyed themselves immensely.
I cannot put it more simply than this; no such trouble occurred, anywhere, and not only were my guys and I in the central areas, and we took a lot of pictures and shot a lot of footage in the side-streets and bars, but we had friends in other parts of the city and I was ever alert for the slightest rumour or report and there was nothing whatsoever.
Other reports that we “trashed” the place are equally preposterous. I read some of those with incredulity this morning and this afternoon and I really can’t figure out what some in our media are doing in promoting this stuff.
The press has two choices in a circumstance like this; it can take pride in the travelling fans, and do them the credit of praising them and their behaviour under exceptional provocation or they can find little things to take shots at them for … and some of our hacks have clearly made that decision without seeming to realise that it paints a picture of all Scotland’s travelling supporters, and makes foreign police forces all the more likely to react this way.
When Ibrox fans got into actual clashes with police last season, much of the press was immediately on their side. Furthermore, I didn’t see any reports of “excessive littering” even from their appearance in the final, where they allegedly took tens of thousands.
The stories in the papers about we left tons of rubbish behind us are typically snide and sniping but without the writers either knowing the context or giving much of a shit about it. They are complaining, in the main, about Plaza Mayer; I was in Plaza Mayer and perhaps – and this is just a thought – local officials wishing to bitch about it might have wanted to think about providing litter bins for people to use, of which there were none.
So of course there was litter, especially since all the shops and restaurants in the vicinity did a roaring trade and there was nowhere for fans to put their rubbish. The vague threat that Madrid might “review” its policy on allowing football fans to use the square is obvious rubbish and a complete non-starter. We are neither the first fans to congregate there in large numbers nor the first to leave some empty crisp packets behind us.
The idea that all those local businesses would have preferred a quiet day instead of a roaring trade … don’t make me laugh. Ask the businesses around George Square which had to shut on the day Ibrox fans descended on the place and caused actual mayhem. If they could have stayed open, safely, they would have done so and many would have been packed out the doors.
Does our media think we’re stupid?
Madrid hosts massive games every other week. It has hosted European finals. It has been invaded by supporters from all over the game, of every shade and stripe, and nobody is going to tell me we were exceptional as regards to the mess we made.
This is another example of the Scottish press fishing for an anti-Celtic story wherever they can get it, and not being very particular about how sound their reporting is. As someone who was there, I can tell you how wrong they’ve got it and how out of order their attempt to portray these events as something obnoxious and anti-social really are.
Our fans were not just a credit to our club but this country as a whole.
That some people in the media just cannot help themselves speaks more about them than it does us.