What’s in a word?

Words are never mere words. They embody concepts, are charged with historical memories and associations, and shape our understanding of, and approach to, the world.

The new season is upon us and as we all wait in anticipation to see what new signings will be drafted in and how we will meet the challenge of the Whyte revolution over at Castle Greyskull (can I say that?) the hangover from last seasons events remain. There is apparently a new SFA structure to be tried out but the unsavoury taste of the vile abuse suffered by Neil Lennon lingers on and the new season will bring with it more I am sure.  I recently listened to an interview by Eddie Pearson from celticunderground.net with Paul McBride QC (which you can find here and is well worth 60mins of your time) within which they reflect on last year and in particular the introduction of the perceived merits and limitations of the new Sectarian Bill in January 2012.  This piece of legislation has arrived swiftly and, in my opinion, is an over the top, knee-jerk reaction to the events of the Scottish Cup replay in March 2011 following which a summit of Politicians, Police Chiefs alongwith representatives from Celtic and Rangers was convened due to events both on and off the field.  It amazes me how only 2 clubs are ever summoned to such meetings when, as events at Tynecastle at the end of the season have shown, this problem is a national one as opposed to an exclusively West of Scotland one and until this is acknowledged very little head way will be made.  The Sectarian Bill for me is nothing more than a PR, political point-scoring document which due to the haste of its introduction has glaring flaws contained within.  It goes without saying that sectarian violence within the country has brought misery (and sadly on occasions, death) to individuals and their families.  The problem requires to be addressed but is tackling football fans through the powers of the Sectarian Bill the right way to go about this?  There exists 2 main strands to this discussion, both of which I believe stand in isolation so I will discuss them as such.  In order to contextualise this discussion I will consider my own development as a Celtic fan through a generation which extends back to the 80’s and may ring true for some of you reading this.

Unfortunately throughout my younger years images of buildings destroyed and burnt out cars accompanied by the commentary advising of how many were dead or injured was commonplace.  These images, typically being beamed from the streets of Northern Ireland, clearly highlighted the extent of ‘The Troubles’.  My knowledge of the history and origins of these matters was shaped through the media as well as through exposure to Celtic FC and the ‘Pro-IRA’ songs and material associated with the club.  Such exposure, through attending matches or celebrating major victories within local supporters clubs, led to an internalisation of the beliefs that the fight for freedom by the Republicans was right, just and should be celebrated.  Personally, however, I had no association with these troubles but didn’t think twice about inserting an additional line or two within Celtic songs with no consideration for the real-life experiences being lived by those caught up in this war (a defence which will no longer be valid come January 2012).  As I have grown older and hopefully matured I have now shed this youthful naivety and look back with some embarrassment but I would not say regret.  Personal and professional experiences have shown me that a continued lack of tolerance would have denied me many achievements in life.   The practice of singing such songs and celebrating such organisations, however, remains and who am I to condemn those possibly directly involved the right to such expression.  Let us not be fooled into believing that such verbal expression through song is unique to this issue and does not extend into other cultures or countries.  It is when this matter enters the football ground and attaches itself to Celtic that I begin to question its place.  Celtic and Rangers fans have always built the foundations of their differences upon the religious card and as I have mentioned I indulged to a degree.  Those in power within both clubs whilst publicly condemning this behaviour send out mixed messages (for commercial reasons I believe) with the playing of such songs as “Let The People Sing” and annual pre-season friendlies with Linfield. This rivalry has been passed from generation to generation but I do not truly believe that the existence or strength of such hatred remains within the wider context of society with the stigma of sectarianism now standing alongside the likes of racism, sexism and homophobia.  Celtic fans have argued that their right to sing these songs lies within the club’s Irish heritage.  Is such a view, therefore, transferrable to, as Harry Brady from celticunderground puts it, the Orangemens insistence that they will always march on the Queen’s Highway?

Let me now clearly separate out the other issue considered within the interview and one which the Sectarian Bill aims to tackle and that is the general outlawing of what is deemed to be offensive terms which may include the likes of ‘hun’, ‘tim’, ‘orange (insert word)’ or ‘fenian (insert word)’.  Now I am not going to go all literary here and examine the origins and meaning of each word as defined by the English Scholars but would rather consider them within the context of a football match.  Before I begin let me set the scene with this short clip which I found on ‘The Huddleboard’ and which sums it all up nicely for me…..

To this day I still refer to my Rangers supporting family and friends as ‘huns’ particularly around the time of a Celtic v Rangers match with the retort of ‘timmy’ or even ‘fenian’ being commonplace.  I regularly check the fixture list for the next ‘huns game’ or during the title run-in ask “who have the huns got today?”.  These exchanges and the use of this phrase, for my part, takes place within the context of footballing rivalry and is never rooted within intolerance or discrimination of any kind.  As of January 2012, and if I am understanding Paul McBride correctly, my continued use of this phrase could see me in bother under the terms of the Sectarian Bill, something which I don’t think would do my professional career prospects any good!  It is here that this Bill falls down and shows itself up for what it really is and that is an idealistic, vote-chasing piece of legislation which in practice is unworkable and unsustainable.  I would be interested in how such a law will be enforced when we are 3-0 up in a match against Rangers and the stadium breaks in to a chorus of “Go home ya huns!”  I would also be interested to see this law extended to the footballing rivalries which exist down South particularly between Man Utd and Liverpool!  ‘Sticks and stones…’ and all that!

The need to address this cancer within our society is unquestionable and supporters from both Celtic and Rangers must abandon their ‘whataboutery’ stance if progress is to be made.  Is the Sectarian Bill going to help us in this process?  In my opinion it is a step in the right direction but it is an opportunity glaringly missed given the manner in which it is being introduced and the initial interpretation of what it will mean for us the football fans. Abandoning the bigoted songbook is a must but the attempted sanitisation of footballing rivalry is absurd and unworkable.  Football is all about rivalry and the associated chants and banter – force this out of the game and we will be left with nothing!

Let me know your thoughts on this topic.

Hail! Hail!

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4 Responses to What’s in a word?

  1. DANNYBHOYCFC88 says:

    Good points there but it takes a cunt to be offended

  2. Rob says:

    No disrespect but the Old Firm rivalry goes way back and has always had terrible undertones, whilst we have lived side by side come Old Firm day those friendships and loyalty have been put to one side until later in the pub where you’d discuss the days events and what was right and what was wrong. It was always a small minority that caused trouble and consequently due in part to trouble makers wearing football regalia it was easy to attach the causes to football. There is a problem with bigotry but in no way is it anywhere near as bad as painted by the Police, Govt or for that matter the Roman Catholic church and whilst we are giving suggested sources as to where it all stems then you need look no further than a media that fails to show balance, parity and professionalism at its core, resulting in either someone being offended, it sells papers. All too often we look around and try to justify why someone hates someone else or to point the finger in as you say whataboutary as a means to an end and ultimately results in some persecution complex being developed which feeds the hate and exacerbates the situation and until we have a media in Scotland that serves Scotland and not a minority the situation will continue as is, in fact I’d go further and say it can and will get worse.
    Over the past 2 years the relationship between both sets of supporters has got worse and both sets of support employ the same tactics in order to drop the other in it and this culture is what is ruining scottish football, couple this with the actions of Celtic FC last year when they sought and freely did challenge the rules of the game, not for sportmanship reasons but simply because they could, these are rules and not laws, you enter the game but you abide by the rules and yet Celtic FC sought to change the rules as they didn’t suit their cause. It also has to be said that Neil Lennon has not helped the situation and has readily been protected by a media propoganda wagon that has been in full flow now for some years, I agree that what Neil Lennon had to go through was appalling and those responsible should be banged up for a significant time but what caused people to act in such a manner and has Neil Lennon taken any responsibility and acknowledge that his actions are causing the divide to grow wider and the hatred to increase. Celtic FC and its media lackies sought to put the knife in to Rangers during the 2006 season and began the cycle of getting the club into trouble for singing songs they have sung for generations without fear, as have Celtic with their own rendition of IRA ditties and such, but the onslaught has ensued to this day and to all intents and purposes there has only been one club charged by UEFA and slated and hung drawn and quartered at each avenue and that is Rangers FC. The problem of sectarainism doesn’t start and end at Rangers FC and whilst Celtic are now finding out what they have gone through for some years now, perhaps with this new law they will begin to recognise that the face of football has changed and is in decline but that they should shoulder some of the blame and not exonerate themselves from all responsibility.
    Suffice you can’t have your cake and eat it.

  3. David Farrell says:

    Some great points and personal insight which shows the problem dealing with the issue. When rangers were charged by the asylum of uefa, I did a straw poll in the office. In the cambridge office was spurs, gunners, man u, Liverpool season ticket holder, guys with a real football knowledge and history. When I asked them what “I’m up to my knees in Fenian blood” meant, not one of them had a clue – so who did the song offend in the Spanish crowd? If I choose to sing about the glory of people who fought and died for the freedom from injustice who am I offending? Does that mean we can no longer sing flower of Scotland or the British national anthem, because they all have terms that could be nconsidered offensive.
    It’s about time that some sanity was brought to account. There are already laws to punish the idiots who behave outside of the social norms. Scotland in 2012 will be no different to iran, Yemen. If you are arrested for singing a “pro-IRA” song can they then hold you for 30 days under the terrorist legislation?
    The revolution is coming and they are pushing you further and further to anarchy. God bless you all.

  4. Hi Celtic fan,

    What a great blog – there’s some fantastic stuff here! It’s a shame that you stopped writing! If you would still like to write the occasional article on Celtic, we would love for you to share your opinions on http://www.fanalistas.co.uk a site where the stories are written by fans. It’s less pressure than maintaining your own blog! You can write about what you want when you want.

    If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can set up an account at the following link: http://www.fanalistas.co.uk/register


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