by Ryan C. Gavan
Being an impartial observer, spending time covering the Old Firm clash at Hampden Park yesterday was an experience in the very least. It was the first time the teams have met since the much publicised game two weeks ago, all eyes were watching. I went wondering whether the fans had taken any notice of the warnings or the Summit on the Old Firm.
I was greeted by a very heavy police presence. It looked to me like a the preparation for a riot. Mixing with fans on both sides, I noticed that the sectarian attitude is engrained to Old Firm meetings. Tri-colours on one side, Union Jacks on the other, it goes beyond religion to politics, using that term very loosely. One Rangers fan had a scarf with the words “William of Orange” while a Celtic fan wore a top with “Bobby Sands MP” embroidered in orange and green. Speaking to both sets of fans, they blame the other for the trouble. The real issue here is the culture, the so-called “90-minute bigot.” They go to the game, sing their sectarian songs and go home, not thinking about it until the next meeting. The issue for politicians, police and the Old Firm itself, is how to change years of hatred. Many wonder whether this is even possible.
Watching children as young as seven singing about ‘Fenians’ and ‘Huns,’ I could hardly stop myself wondering if they even knew what these words meant, let alone the history behind them. It becomes normalised, so they grow older and teach their children to hate the other side, never really knowing why. There was a joint letter yesterday from the Catholic and Protestant Churches in Scotland, urging the fans for the game to be remembered for the football and nothing else. It is a lovely sentiment but this is not a one game issue. It is an issue during every game, it is an issue beyond Glasgow. There is a distinct need for every fan to turn a new direction, so that the generations of bigotry ends.