Home > Uncategorized > The Sash of Athenry

The Sash of Athenry

A few years ago, at a book signing in Canada, I was approached by a gentleman of advanced years who leaned over the table and asked, sotto voce, ‘Which are you, Rangers or the ‘tic?’ When I replied, ‘Actually, I’m neither,’ he glared at me, hissed, ‘I don’t believe you,’ and walked away.

The old fool can believe what he likes, but what I told him was true. It is possible to be Scottish, follow football, and yet be a supporter of neither half of the Old Firm. But that doesn’t mean to say we don’t know the songs, and the chants; it’s difficult to avoid them. Therefore, when I read that Celtic FC had been fined €15,000 by UEFA for ‘illicit chanting’ at a recent Europa League tie, I understood what they meant, just as it didn’t have to be spelled out to me when a similar fine was imposed on Rangers five years ago.

Let me make it clear; I do not condone or excuse sectarian singing, chanting or behaviour in any way shape or form. I do believe it’s a pity that a couple of nice and otherwise inoffensive songs have become associated with the hatred between two football clubs, but if they’re off limits, so be it. However in recent years both clubs involved have done everything they could to stamp down on any offence caused, so it smacks of unfairness when each is singled out, and this is compounded when it is done in isolation, by a body based in a country which does not count English among its three native tongues and whose judges understand neither the language or the issues involved.

Singled out? Yes, absolutely. Glasgow does not have world exclusive rights to ‘illicit’ (surely a word chosen by someone who is not a native English speaker)  football chanting, or ‘illicit’ behaviour . . . such as that exhibited by Les Cules (lit; ‘The arses’), the Barcelona support who threw a pig’s head at their former player Luis Figo, when he returned for the first time as a Madrid player. (I know these guys; if they could have thrown the rest of the pig, they would.) Every time I watch a football match on telly, I hear singing that might give offence to many people. Some of it is funny. (I can never manage not to smile at  ‘Cheer up Peter Reid,’ sung to the tune of ‘Daydream Believer’.) Some of it is not. (The stuff that London clubs used to chant at the young David Beckham must have been very hard for him to take.) But I cannot recall any of it leading to action by UEFA against the clubs involved, or even action by their own national associations. Racist abuse gets everyone’s attention, as it should, instantly, but nothing else other than it seems, the Old Firm.

I would suggest to the Gnomes of Nyon that if they are going to set themselves up as censors of the stands and terracing, they should do so on a pan-European basis and crack down on ‘illicit’ behaviour in every one of their member nations.  If they’re not prepared to do that, they should trust those associations to do  the job themselves, as they and their member clubs have done, by and large, over the years. And there’s this also; the people who sing and chant in support of their clubs, most of them passionate and committed men and women who know what is truly offensive and what isn’t, are paying large slabs of money to do so. Don’t they have rights as well, and should they be undermined by a minority of idiots?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Joy
    December 15, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Does this mean an end to Flo’er o’ Scotland?

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