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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 12, 2011 @ 9:51 am

    Where does madness in Scottish football end?

    Paul Gallagher

    YouTube Preview ImageJust where does the madness end? The sectarian hatred brewing within Scottish football, and in particular from the Old Firm, cannot and should not be tolerated any further.

    Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been at the coalface of this hatred. And let’s be honest he’s no angel and some of his actions – like lifting hands to ears to seemingly taunt Rangers fans recently – have not endeared him, especially on the blue side of Glasgow.

    But that’s still no excuse for what he has been subjected to all season and, in fact, all through his career.

    Last night’s charge by a “fan” to have a go at Lennon on the touchline – during their SPL game against hearts at Tynecastle – is a new low. It’s the latest act in a horror-filled season for the Hoops manager, who must now be wondering if his position as manager at Celtic is tenable.

    Death threats, bombs, bullets in the post, vitriolic attacks on the street are just some of the low-life actions Lennon has been subjected to.

    The former Northern Ireland international – who was forced to give up that privilege for same threat reasons – comes across as a defiant character. However, there comes a time when incessant threats towards an individual cannot be tolerated, especially if the threat spills over to members of his family.

    These are dark days for Scottish football and at a time when many would argue is already in serious decline. From the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, down all have spoken out against the latest attack on Lennon.

    Rather than a shot in the arm, or a good news story from Scottish Football, it continues to spiral and morph into something of a pariah. Should it continue even greater numbers will switch off than are already doing so.

    If these are so-called fans behind the Lennon attacks they are in serious danger of biting off the hand that feeds them with Scottish football in danger of slipping into oblivion.

    Given the current situation, is that such a bad thing?

    • CL says:

      Nice one, Paul, blaming both halves of the ‘Old Firm’ for this long series of sickening and increasingly worrying attacks on a football manager. Please do not drag Celtic or its fans into this episode and call it as it is for a change: sectarian bigots attempting to destroy a man because he is an Irish Catholic in charge of Celtic FC.

    • brimac says:

      Interesting that the 2 policemen (in yellow) didn’t exactly spring into action.

    • Billy Hunt says:

      Some of both sets of fans are guilty of sectarianism. To say otherwise is puerile.
      An excellent article. More of such honesty from this side of the Irish sea might be helpful.

    • mrk says:

      I second most of what Paul says but CL is also correct in pointing out that he’s somewhat missed the real issue here in flagging this as “from the Old Firm”. No Celtic fans have attacked anyone and no Celtic fans have sent nail bombs or live bullet.

      We’re not whiter than white, of course, but I think that just needs pointing out.

      And, really….cupping one’s ears when the most vile comments about you and your family are raining down for ninety minutes? Is that so wrong? Put yourself in the man’s shoes before you judge.

    • mrk says:

      I also see Les Gray, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying

      “There is nothing that justifies someone going onto a pitch and physically attacking Neil Lennon or anybody else – that’s criminal behaviour, it is nothing to do with football.

      “Whatever else you say about Neil Lennon’s behaviour, that’s football, this is a criminal act. You can’t compare the two.”

      Good points.

    • sean says:

      Its plain and simple – its sectarian bigotry. Its rampant in Scotland and manifests itself primarily through football. James McCarthy and Aiden Mcgeady were subjected to horrendously vile abuse> Why – because they wanted to play for Ireland (as was their right). Niall McGinn and Paddy McCourt were sent bullets in the post. Why? Because they were Northern Irish Catholics playing for Celtic. Weve had a prominant lawyer and former MP both sent bombs in the post. Why? Because they are Celtic supporting Catholics. Stop the nonsense and recognise this for what it truly is – Sectarian Bigotry.

    • S says:

      Having lived in Scotland for a couple of years I can tell you that the attacks stem from both sides of the sectarian divide and are not entirely isolated to the Old Firm clubs either. It’s foolish to say that “No Celtic fans have attacked anyone”, they’re not exactly altar boys. There has always been a dark cloud hanging over the SPL but now it seems there’s even less focus than before on the actual sport and more on this kind of thing.

      Football should be about what goes on on the pitch, not off it.

    • Cian says:

      I was watching the game last night with my Rangers supporting flatmate & my other ‘impartial’ flatmate. When I expressed my disgust at what these vile bigots were doing to Lennon, both of them agreed but qualified it with ‘he brings it upon himself’. What a load of b**lsh1t. Lets call this what it is, which an irrational hatred of Irish catholics coupled with a superiority complex. While the view that ‘he brings it upon himself” persists within elements of the media & a large proportion (if not a majority) of Rangers & Hearts fans, it can never be eliminated. I wish Neil the very best & hopefully he wont succumb to these disgusting sectarian animals.

    • Michael Gallagher says:

      This episode of abuse is one of a series which seems to surround the life of Neil Lennon both during his playing career and most recently his managerial career. This plight has seen Lennon cut short his international playing career and leaves question marks over his future career with Celtic F.C. Yet neither UEFA nor FIFA have come out to condemn these sickening actions. Why not? When Spanish fans where racially abusing high profile English and French International players during international matches FIFA/UEFA immediately stepped in to condemn the actions of those fans. Yet, “Norn Iron,” international players such as Lennon, Mc Court and Mc Ginn are subjected to this abuse in their home ground during international games, away grounds throughout Scotland and in Lennon’s case on the street, at home and at his place of work. Why is FIFA and UEFA keeping quite and not coming out to denounce the actions befalling Lennon and his colleagues.

      UEFA/FIFA running scared of sectarianism? Surely not.

    • donalo says:

      Havng personally experienced the unadulterated anti-Catholic , anti-irish bigotry of some Rangers fans, I can only agree that it is time to call a spade a spade . There is a blind pathological hatred associated with some of these people and I cannot understand why , except that it is drilled into their pathetic skulls from an early age .Blame the parents , their churches and their schools . They are as a bad as the Islamic fundamentalist extremists Neill Lennon has all my admiration for standing up to them. Its like a rerun of Gervahey Road . In other words , they are saying ‘Hey , you Jimmie, you are a second class Fenian b***ard, you have no right to even play us at football!.

    • muckduff says:

      When last in Edinburgh for a rugby International I met with a Hearts supporter, genuine nice guy but he had some strange ideas about us supporting a team with both protestants and catholice playing on the same side. I really thought these ideas had gone away and poeple had moved on. Obvioulsy not. I assume not all Celtic supporters are angels but it does look as if this bigotry is coming in one direction. How about Rangers and Celtic fans getting together in defiance of any further actions.

    • mrk says:

      Such an initiative as outlined by muckduff would be great – a coming together in solidarity. I’d like to think it would and could happen but, if even the soundest of Rangers fans (and there are plenty) are expressing the sort of blinkered view Cian describes above, it makes it all the more difficult.

      I do think Celtic supporters have to look at themselves if we’re to look at the broader picture. The continuing “rebel songs” are never going to endear themselves to the British public, for instance, and are out-of-place in the context of where Ireland is right now. However, I do think the problem is largely with nutjob elements of Rangers, Hearts and, alas, others (Lennon, McGeady and McCarthy have received abuse all over Scotland).

      We can also look at Europe where Rangers have been fined and had supporters banned for their behavious in countless matches over recent years. Celtic supporters, on the other hand, have received the UEFA and FIFA Fair Play awards.

    • William Thomas says:

      I think we should all stop and say “It is only a game” If it is about religion, then those responsible should start reading their bibles and see how Jesus would have acted as they both claim to be Christians. Scotland and Ireland are both celtic countries with much in common, so get over it.

    • a.commenter says:

      ‘Bombs bullets death threats and vitriloic behaviour in the street’ is not just ‘low life behaviour’ it is escalating criminal behaviour that needs urgent investigation by the Serious Crime Squad…
      However the Polis seem to have have been reluctant to use their wide ranging legislative powers from Football Banning orders to prosecutions under the Public Order and more recently Offences Agaianst the Person legislation to protest Neil lennon…why…?
      Imagine for one moment that the Celtic Manager was black would the Polis have looked the other way… or would greater pressure have been br ought to bear to protect the manger concerned?
      This is not ‘just’ sectarianism it is racism since most Celtic supporters are of Irish racial origin the club having been set up in the East End of Glasgow for the children of Irish Immigrants…
      It is ironic that Scotland have recently voted by 3:1 for the SNP…It is only a matter of time until full independence from the Union.. What tribal colours will the Rangers ‘fans’ wrap themselves in to ‘justifiy’ the racist/sectarian ranting then…?
      The new Scottish Parliament should summon the Polis to account for their failure to enforce the law and allowing this situation to escalate in this way.

    • Bren Jacob says:

      “The sectarian hatred brewing within Scottish football, and in particular from the Old Firm, cannot and should not be tolerated any further”

      Yet another article on “the old firm” from some one who obviously hasnt a clue what they are on about.

      For sure some of the Celtic fans are extremely dodgy individuals (though the same could be said for just about any large club) and some of the songs definitely dont help matters but to tar “the Old Firm” ie. Rangers AND Celtic equally with the secterian brush is ridiculous.
      But by and large secterianism is (and always has been) a Rangers, and to a lesser extent Hearts problem.
      Thats not to excuse the actions of some of those claiming to be Celtic support but in comparison to Rangers the amount of secterianism as Celtic fc is miniscule.

    • mrk says:

      Great point, William. I think Scots and Irish have got on well over the years and there’s never any bother at rugby or, as far as I know, international soccer. It just seems that there’s some stratum of society in Scotland that finds a voice through soccer and that voice is sectarian and of an anti-Irish “racist” nature.

    • Paul says:

      A topic sure to fire debate. Several have questioned why the “Old Firm” makes for special mention. However there can be little denying it is by far the most tension-filled fixture on the Scottish football calendar. Having been to a number of games both at Ibrox and Celtic Park, I speak from “some” experience and am able to compare it to games watched at Tynecastle, Easter Road, Pittodrie and even East End Park back when Jackie McNamara was a star in the making for the Pars before making his move to Celtic. I “may not have a clue” Bren but like some have pointed out, there could be an argument for saying the Old Firm has become a vehicle for out-and-out sectarianism and having witnessed firsthand down the years, both Old Firm venues can be intimidating places.

    • Dr Henry Kennedy says:

      I was born within half a mile of Ibrox Park. I went to the (Protestant) school system, and that is the Scottish-Northern Irish problem—seperate schools which teach two versions of history. They breed hate and sectarianism. I’ve been a teacher in the USA public schools for over 40 years. Not once in my career did I ever hear a student even refer to another’s religion let alone pass a disparaging remark.
      When will all the clergy stop pushing religious training in schools using taxpayers’ moneyl?

    • Shane says:

      Paul your attempt to link an intimidatory atmosphere at Parkhead to religous bigotry on the part of Celtic supporters is frankly rather embarrassing. Be brave and call it what it is – Scotlands secret shame of rampant anti-Catholic sectarianism or saw nothing at all. The “Old Firm” comment is typical lazy Irish journalism. Clearly a journalist well out of your depth.

    • Patrick says:

      I first started supporting Celtic in 1969 (dad’s Scottish heritage, mom’s Irish heritage) from California. Tough since none of the US papers carried football scores. When I was 16 in 1972 and had my driving licence, I would occasionally drive into San Francisco to one of the Irish pubs to get football results. I knew of the Old Firm rivalry but not until around 1975 did I realize that there was a religious aspect to it. Where I grew up in California, religion did not matter. However, it sure took Rangers a long time (in the modern era) to have a Catholic player on its books. But, having first moved to Ireland in 1982 (then France, England and my California), when I moved here in 1995 I was in a pub on O’Connell Street listening to trad music. I saw a young strapping lad in a Celtic jersey. Having just watched Tartan Highlights and Paul Gascoigne (never a player I liked) score a magnificent goal for Rangers against… (I can’t remember), I said to this lad “Did you see Gascoigne’s goal today, wonderful”. This guy wanted to take me outside and beat the **** for me saying that, and I told him that I was a Celtic supporter but appreciate good football. It swings both ways, and I am getting tired of it and will no longer watch Scottish football.

    • William Thomas says:

      Let us be honest, in the context of Northern Ireland it is the catholic church that wish their flock to be educated separately and this turns the state schools into de facto protestant schools and anything else. The same is true of Scotland, apart from the fact that the Church of Scotland (Protestant) also gets into the act. I think we should close down all church schools in Northern Ireland and Scotland and create a new secular school system, where children from all backgrounds would be able to go. I believe this would go a long way to solving the problem of sectarianism. Let’s face it, the churches are part of the problem and not the solution.

    • eoghan says:

      The Irish media are great for opining and looking down their noses on those bigoted Scots (and Irish) who attend Celtic and Rangers matches. I must say that I find the tribalism depressing. In recent times, we seem to have gone back to the past.

      Perhaps the Irish media might discuss or ask whether our poaching of Scottish born players with an Irish connection who are eligible to play for Ireland, under the granny rule or whatever, has on this problem. When you get a player, neither of whose parents were born in Ireland, being encouraged to play for Ireland, is it any wonder if it gets up the noses of Scottish supporters and I’m sure many in the top echelons of Scottish soccer?

      Poaching from Scotland is not like poaching from England who has plenty of (top class) players to choose from. It is an insult and a hurt to the Scots that one born, reared and playing their football in Scotland should choose to play for another country of similar size to themselves. It is not difficult to see the inspiration for the Rangers supporters’ chants of “the famine’s over, it’s time to go back”.

      Sport and the officials of sports bodies have an obligation to the wider society as well as to the sport and the team. I find the wooing of McGeady and now McCarthy quite embarrassing. I thought that with the numerous signings of Catholics by Rangers, the end of the NI tensions, the improvement in communications (media), the new interest by Scots in their own Gaelic culture (including the setting up of gaelscoileanna) and the general reduction in bigotry in the west of Scotland, we would very gradually see an end to the worst examples.

      As Scottish soccer is struggling, the luring of players by Ireland is becoming more painful. I suspect that Scottish Catholics are uncomfortable with this. I believe that the luring of James McCarthy is very damaging. The behaviour of the Irish football authorities is helping to keep bigotry alive and well in Scotland.

      I am more a GAA man where loyalty to club and parish is the guiding principle. I do not expect that it can be applied in a professional sport. However, I believe that the degree to which sport is allowed to ignore its responsibilities toward the wider society in which it operates should always be part of the equation when decisions like these are made.
      Could someone explain to me why these clubs allow supporters to carry national flags, a tribal badge, into these grounds?

    • Micheal Sullivan says:

      Tom Nairn once wrote “that Scotland will be reborn when the last minsiter is strangled with the last copy of ‘The Sunday Post’”….last time I looked, ministers were in abundance and the sunday rag still persists…..long way to go boys and girls…

    • Kendo says:

      You say he brings it on himself. No he doesn’t! Cupping your ears does not justify terrorist attacks and physical violence.
      The press doesn’t help with this rediculous assertion. Alex Ferguson is as passionate in his job as Neil Lennon, if he got bombs sent to his house would say he brought it on himself? No you would not, so please stop and think before you write such rubbish.

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