Fri, Jul

Respect, Disrespect and Rephrasing Dislike

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The Kudela incident and the fall-out served to highlight the differences or various states of progress or understanding within different societies. It’s not unreasonable to say that some within Slavia Prague are at a different place than we currently are in Scotland. We shouldn’t be too contemptuous or condescending though, we’ve seen similar not too long ago and there’s always work to do. Good habits have to be learned, whilst bad habits have to be unlearned.

It’s an important subject and our love of Glen Kamara adds real depth and empathy to it. It’s part of a process and no society will jump from point A to Z in one step. Football has the power to help make these changes though and it has a perfect template to project outwards - a team of players from all corners of the globe, from all backgrounds working together for a common goal. It’s a clear and concise message and it encapsulates integration and togetherness, including the fans on the terraces. In the last 30 years Rangers have been far and away the most international side in Scotland, and where they have given their all for the club, then they’ve been idolised.

One predictable fall-out is the clamour to conflate the Kudela incident to sectarianism in Scottish football, or more specifically, certain people are clamouring to conflate this to anything the Rangers support sings or anything anyone within a radius of 20 mile of Ibrox might happen to mutter.

There’s a few points here. Firstly, there’s a basic duty of respect in how you treat any other person - intimidating, threatening, humiliating etc, it’s really not on. The understanding and boundaries on this are largely universally accepted, if not always followed. Secondly, there’s context and history in how groups of football supporters interact and within that context I don’t personally consider the use of certain sectarian slurs between groups in the West of Scotland to be equivalent to the Kudela incident. Thirdly, and more importantly, it doesn’t matter what I think. People will be chomping at the bit to conflate the two and will be gunning for us (yes, exclusively us) and the lay of the land is such that we will be demonised in the media and pressed for punishment. In particular, our behaviour in European competition has to be impeccable going forward.

As a reminder to focus the minds just type ‘Rangers UEFA singing charge’ into Google. Plenty of hits, plenty of headlines and lots of hyperbole. The crux of the sectarian singing debate for us is often (and never really has been) about what’s right or wrong, or fair and balanced, or how it came about. It’s about what it means to Rangers - and that is simply that this could and will damage Rangers.

I’d originally started this article with the intent of, if not, actually presenting a case for certain songs, then at least providing some mitigation for them. The problem is I can’t. Strip away any context or background and place them under a legal spotlight designed to catch certain words then it’s indefensible. The songs and tribalism got carried away in an arms race of offensiveness with our rivals and they decided when the music should stop. Our environment has changed whilst the songs haven’t. The only solution is to sing about Rangers. I’ve no problem with that at all.

That’s the niceties and sensible stuff out of the way. Our rivals really can be a wrenched bunch of scheming hypocrites. For all football has the power to bring people together it also has the power to keep us apart. Especially, if you bring identities and politics into the mix, where you then have the binary aspect of a rivalry fused on to each of those external identities. But when the real-life and politics start acting like football fans then it’s too far gone.

That’s where we are in Scotland. It’s complicated. It’s tribal. It’s been with us longer than any of us have been alive and it surrounds us, shapes us, divides us – often by design. If you cannot see it or feel it then you have your eyes closed.

"Given this social and historical context . . . the control and disciplinary committee said they considered Uefa cannot demand an end to behaviour which has been tolerated . . . in view of this, the body ruled that despite the behaviour of their fans, Rangers had not infringed the disciplinary regulations."

This excerpt from The Guardian was from UEFAs original finding in 2006, when they were introduced into the madness of the West of Scotland sport politics. It could be viewed as a cop out or it could be viewed as a nod to it being a complicated subject. I would hate to think how it all looks to any uninitiated outsider.

The problem has never been the Rangers support not admitting that (deliberately) offensive behaviour exists, the problem is that Rangers (club and support) appear to take 99% of the blame for what is a shared societal situation. I have no issue conceding that the words and actions coming from my side could cause hurt or animosity or may just be plain unnecessary or unhelpful. But with that I can see the real reason behind Rangers being singled out as the bad guy - we see who’s pulling the strings. We see who’s refusing to concede their own wrong-doing or offensive behaviour. I can certainly see plenty of sectarian language coming in the other direction. And this is why it is not equivalent to the Kudela incident, because it is a two-way street here and fundamentally it is, well, social and historical in context.

It is a subject which would benefit from maturity, honesty and concessions from both sides but which has been badly let down. From a promising start point, it quickly developed into an unsightly clamour from one side to point-score and it has morphed into a grotesque self-serving industry; which without irony, contrives to perpetuate even more hate and mistrust. And results in articles like the Guardian one.

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It didn’t take long for the point-scoring conspirators to jump the gun against Rangers.

A video of a frustrated yell of "how we not fucking organising ourselves, picking people up" after the St Johnstone goal was quickly imagined in to "get in your own hawf ya f*nian c*nt", amongst other things, possibly with the catalyst of some doctored audio along the way. This was quickly picked up and spread across the Celtic-fringe with ‘anti-Irish racism’ being the battle-cry; the racism hook being the key component in this fabricated, crow-barred conflation. The problem is that this lie now exists as a fact in the minds of many. And it’s been whored across social media to anyone that’ll listen, presumably because they’ve taken such bait before.

This type of blatant propaganda is no stranger to the Rangers support. This example could easily be worked into folklore and passed out as fact on TV or radio or paper by the usual suspects at any point in the future. The concern here isn’t that the lunatic fringe are chattering or conspiring, rather that the more paranoid across the city spans the entire spectrum, many of whom hold power and influence.

Just last month, high profile SNP member, lawyer Aawer Anwar was guilty of tagging a Rangers vs Celtic angle onto a tragic murder.

It turned out that there was no football angle. Not only that but it looks like the accused may not only be a Celtic supporter but actually claims to work at the club on his social media. But yet again the lie was out there. This wasn’t some nobody on Twitter. It wasn’t a mistake, misspeak or poor choice of words. This was a high profile, well-educated, legal mind and it was deliberate and calculated. The tweet still exists, for what it’s worth. Worse still, this was the man that represented Glen Kamara just weeks before, now playing disingenuous and dangerous games on Twitter.

Sadly, these aren’t isolated incidents. There is a cultural proclivity from within the Celtic support to attack Rangers which borders on obsession. Is it based on race or religion? Possibly. If any Rangers action can be reduced to that argument then it certainly follows that any Celtic action can be as well. They may feel they have valid reasons for disliking Rangers or the Rangers support. Similarly, why wouldn’t you feel validated in disliking the Celtic support when they behave like that? Or when they use sectarian epithets like h*n or orange b*stard more readily than you’ll hear f*nian b*stard these days? And then have the front to defend their use of it or pretend it’s somehow from a more justified or less offensive place. Nope, I’m not having that at all. But the chattering classes that dominate Scottish social commentary will nod their heads.

In 2021 does any of this inanity really have anything to do with where or what people choose to worship or their place of origin? Personally, not for me, but then I can’t talk for everyone. Of course, Celtic were formed as an Irish-Catholic club by businessmen and leaders within that community, so for them it might apply, and more so. Our signing of Jon Daly, let alone Mo Johnston, showed where deep, latent intolerance resides these days. They still play on those identities when it suits their purposes – be it John Hartson’s most revealing ultra-ethno-religious definition of what a Celtic legend is or be it casually whipping stooges like Artur Boruc into a state of religious fervour. It can also be a handy tool for deflection or distraction when the need arises (often) or just as easily be adapted into a weapon - to proclaim and feign outrage, to form narratives and then to shape interpretation and legislation, and that brings us back to sectarianism debate.

It’s worth noting that laws don’t just spontaneously appear. They arrive through necessity or agenda – and one resource Scotland isn’t currently lacking in is agenda. Unfortunately, as a collective, we were on a separate chapter and whilst our robust/uncouth/legacy words were being added to the naughty list. However, the same rectitude wasn’t applied across the vernacular and that unevenness is visible (or audible) today. That doesn’t mean there’s not moral equivalence in the words f*nian or h*n or orange b*stard, it just means that UEFA's instruments, laws or punishments don’t yet capture them. And neither will the FARE representative, who may or may not have been belting out rebel songs in the boozer beforehand. He isn’t looking for equivalence or parity. He’s looking to score against Rangers. Don’t give them the opportunity.

Perhaps some recognition and concession on these fronts will see things ramped down to make Scottish football a more harmonious place? A more respectful place? Then again, perhaps not. As we know, there’s a million reasons to dislike our rivals and that's part of football. Just be careful how you phrase it.

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