Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Old Firm

While listening to all the post-match bloviating and fulminating can make one fear the onset of deafness, it's depressing to think that the only knowledge some people in the world have of our town is that this stuff goes on in it, when both it and its people are so nice in so many other ways. I live not all that far away from Celtic Park, and the coaches arriving from Ulster, their windows bearing those dreary avatars of long dead Dutchmen and bastardised, graffitoed versions of the national flag, have become a regular sight. Of course, they're all coming for the football. Of course they are.
In the 21st Century, a major city in one of the world's richest nations lives in fear of a football match. Were the situation not so similar to the chariot-racing scene in Constantinople under Justinian, even down to the team colours, an historian would be hard pressed to believe it. And some, if not most, of the people love it, in all its pustulent glory, the way a dog loves its own vomit. What was seen last night was not 'shameful', or capable of being described by any of the other trite adjectives of the type that our politicians seem to have lodged on the tips of their tongues. It was uncivilised on every level. Primitives who go about naked, with bones through their noses, conduct themselves with greater common decency than that. The term 'tribalism' doesn't begin to describe it. Libya is a tribal society, but at least its tribal peoples can fight for a good cause. What was last night all about?
It was, of course, a story as old as time, that of the naked, unbidden hatred that Man can hold for his neighbour. It was an offence against humanity, even down to the foreign mercenaries, with some of the coaching staff seeming, in my opinion, to play the role of janissary officers. Let's take an entirely hypothetical example, If you're, say, Swedish, what could possibly be attractive about last night's display? Why would you want to be near it? The only reasons I can think of are that you're there for pay, or out of a sense of personal loyalty, perhaps misguided, or a combination of both. Your own heritage has nothing to do with the stew of hatreds, the ancient becoming the modern like a mould on a piece of stinking cheese, that animated last night's uncivilised farrago. Why do you associate yourself with it? Even Gaddafi's foreign mercenaries have been known to give up. These guys don't. They come from as far away as Senegal, and still get caught up in it, disgracing their sport and themselves.
They cannot bring shame to their employers, for neither has any shame. As depressing as it is to say, they might represent a model of warfare for the future, very sophisticated big businesses that both know they are nothing without the bitterness and hatred, and still manage to get people to pay for them because they are perversely loved, not wisely but too well. The scenes of aggression among the coaching staff were the most depressing aspect of everything that happened last night. One of the major accusations that can be levelled against neoconservatism is that because its adherents have only ever known peace and prosperity, they take history for granted and behave like thugs because they think that history will be as kind to those who come after them as it's been to them. It's taken a lot of deaths around the world to shake some neoconservatives' belief in their own superiority, and a number of them don't seem to be over it yet. What some members of the coaching staffs did last night would have been unimaginable forty years ago, a deregulated, post Big Bang, flexible labour market, utterly Thatcherite rammy; two in particular doing nothing but seeming to show how similar they are in their desire to fight with each other, two perfect examples of Thatcher's children with the big house, the big car, and the big money, and no idea of how to conduct themselves in public. It's all about the big money. That's all that the Old Firm's about.
Following either Celtic or Rangers seems to be as irrational as loving Ryanair for no reason other than it's not Easyjet. One might as well possess an irrational love for Bank of America as for the former Glasgow Celtic Football and Athletic Club Ltd. It's about as bananas as thinking that Bank of America conducts its business out of a biscuit tin, as Celtic was once believed to do; but nobody has ever been murdered because Ryanair might be cheaper than Easyjet. We haven't had one of those for a year or two, but I bet we came bloody close last night.
All the talk that both companies (I refuse to call them 'clubs', that word possessing a suggestion of sociability in that context which neither organisation possesses, although its alternative meaning might sometimes be appropriate) indulge in about tackling sectarianism is, in my opinion, just talk. They both know that without that hatred, they would cease to have any meaningful existence. Many years ago, I wandered round another sporting venue where you would go if you wanted to see a real blood and snotters contest, the Colosseum, where the gladiators used to say 'We who are about to die salute you', to the spectators, not the other way round. I learned that it had a capacity of 60,000. That is the same capacity as the rebuilt Celtic Park. It would bring us Glaswegians no disgrace, and every honour, if we could consign our thing to history, and allow Celtic Park and Ibrox to stand as abandoned monuments to that occasional viciousness of ours that we managed to overcome, as the ruins of the Colosseum now speak to the once less savoury aspects of Roman life. The fixture should be banned now, and banned forever; and if no more young men lose their lives because of a football match, then the coach tours from Ulster having to find their entertainment elsewhere would be a very, very small price to pay.



Blogger Paul said...

'Following either Celtic or Rangers seems to be as irrational as loving Ryanair for no reason other than it's not Easyjet'

Following Celtic is the most rational concept in the world to me, Martin. If you had ever been to an 'Old Firm' game (we prefer 'Glasgow Derby' so as to disassociate ourselves from Rangers - Old Firm implies we are '2 sides of the same coin' when we really, really aren't) you would see why it's perfectly rational for someone like me to support Celtic, as it would you if you were a football fan.

I could take you to one of these games and open your eyes. I know you wouldn't want to and you'd be right not to want to but it would give you an interesting journalistic insight...maybe.


05 March, 2011 22:47  
Blogger Paul said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

06 March, 2011 00:54  

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