Blue and Green Should Never Be Seen
I have spent more than a few hours of my life pondering the manners of the ant. Their fierce, defiant, determination and innate, indestructible loyalty. Their abundant energy and iron resolve to get the job done whilst working to an obvious, considered and shared strategy. Surely no insect or animal has more right to the title ‘team player’. There are no super egos evident whilst ‘joe ant’ goes about his work, achieving his daily quota.
They also seem to possess a magical, secret hearing sensor, could ants have a sixth sense? This eerie intelligence causes them to ‘freeze’ when an adjacent brother ant is in distress as though they have heard a private and silent scream.
For all their many noble and worthy traits, tick not required when the ant is attacked or senses danger from a defeatable foe. They can become, at a stroke, an unholy, ruthless killing machine, savage and focussed. A swarming, unruly mob, without temerity or fear who will defend their queen with self sacrifice, skill in combat and a passion that a Ghurka regiment would lust for. It was not for nothing that King Solomon suggested ‘Consider the ant, thou sluggard.’
Scottish government ministers recently called for representatives of the two major Glasgow football clubs to attend discussions with a remit to arrive at some sort of healthy compromise and renew efforts to bring the supporters of both historic fan base’s together and move toward a more healthy future. A ceasefire if you like with reasoned debate, which did consequently lead to a 6 point agreement between the clubs including restrictions on alcohol sales on game days, increased police input and involvement and a more stringent club commitment to separate both organisations from potential volatile actions or behaviour from either club, players or officials.
Did these scarily optimistic, socialistic, pilgrims walking their own private Yellow Brick Road have any awareness that at one stroke they, like Jonathan Edwards in search of an olympic gold, were landing two perfect feet in a pair of termite mounds not much further apart than the combined length of Copland Road and the Gallowgate. Two entrenched mounds with communities steeped in a rich and intense sectarian history that looks back hundreds of years with all the embedded guilt, revenge and hatred endemic in a hotbed of partizan, gaelic history, fuelled by so much past religious prejudice and bigotry.
Do the government ministers, directors of these two world famous football clubs, police representatives or intelligent observers truthfully consider that simply by casting the Cyclops eye of governmental procedure and concern over these issues and drawing up a systematised, strategic plan of action they might be able to resolve the deep rooted conflicts and traditions that lie within not only the wider Glasgow community, the Scottish/Irish national tradition but indeed the very heart beat of the global football world.
Nearly every footballing nation can point to at least two famous clubs whose contests produce an atmosphere of tension, intense rivalry bordering on hatred which is far more than football related.
Spread the arc of compass a little wider and you would find that these sporting conflicts are not limited to football alone but baseball in America, ice hockey in the Czech Republic, Australian rules in —– Australia? and even the gentleman’s game of cricket in parts of India and other parts of south Asian subcontinent. There is no getting away from the intrinsic link between sporting prowess and societies tribal heart beat.
Modern mankind wearing his/her democratic suit seeks constantly to reorder the past, desensitise and cleanse the slough of history and human cultural exchange, a sort of clinical genocide where human forces and passions become annexed then anaesthetised and ultimately amputated.
Conspiracy theorists might make a convincing case to prove that governments welcome societies identification with sporting franchises rather than aligning itself to more dangerous, subversive, either radical, political groups or religious fundamentalist factions. What such governments might fail to recognise is that people historically have attached human ideologies by transference to their sporting favourites and that successfuly moving to a new location often involves not only accepting the local team but its historic traditions and background as well.
Competitive sports teams the world over feed on the culture of their national politics, wars, ethnic origins and of course religion.
Each country may claim to have the football or sporting match with the greatest rivalry and in England even different regions might reckon to boast the bigger conflict. In Glasgow it is certainly a matter of Scottish pride and when they say that there is no more intense atmosphere than at a Rangers and Celtic ‘Auld firm’ derby they sincerely believe it. Having been at 3 Glasgow derbies in the 60’s/70’s I personally am not about to disagree.
However, football fans the world over have their national ‘grudge match’. When Bucharest teams Steau and Dinamo meet in the ‘Marela’ or ‘Great Derby’ there are 13 known gangs operating among the Steau ‘ultras’. In 1997, the fanatical supporters of Dinamo, whose roots stem from the Romanian ‘Ministry of Defence’ managed to set Steau’s Peluda Sud stadium alight during one such ‘Derby’ match.
Similar stories the world over exist as past loyalties, political and religious are excuses fans use to build certain games up to fever pitch importance. Whether its Barcelona v Real Madrid, the battle of the two Milan’s, Paris St Germain v Marseilles or even Boston United at Lincoln City.
Buenos Aires in Argentina is the setting for the famed ‘superclasico’ between Boca Juniors, the team from the poor quarter and River Plate who represent the richer classes. This game was listed No.1 in the Observers ‘50 Sporting things you must do before you die’, such is the aura, the passion, excitement and tension this game generates.
Of course sporting rivalries exist outside of football like the famous Ali/Foreman ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ fights in the 70’s. Today, we have seen the Federer and Nadal tennis series develop. Ice hockey, Basketball, Baseball, all have their big rivalries! From Aubora and Alabama in the College scene t0 the Giants and the Jets in the NFL. From the Red Sox and Yankees in Baseball to the Geelong Cats and Port Adelaide in Aussie Rules!
Fortunately, rivalries are not always acrimonious and ugly but they do always run a lot deeper than, it seems to me, the authorities are prepared to accept ….. I sincerely wish those who have drawn up the ‘6 point plan’ the very best of luck, but if building and publishing this plan manages to sort out centuries of Scottish/Irish conflict that has existed long before William of Orange slew the finian catholics in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne and was exacerbated as recently as the 1930’s by Glasgow’s ‘billy boys’ a gang of hard men who terrorised Glasgow catholics then I will be surprised. The stories and tails are indeed endless and this project can at best only scratch at the surface of issues that need tackling on a far deeper level, if tackled they can be at all.
Sport certainly holds a key to wrapping up many demons of histories painful atrocities but only a sensitivity to the limit this can be achieved will enable any small progress at all. The rivalries and histories sporting contests conceal and contain are a necessary safety valve that if meddled with or restrained too fully might rebound upon society in far uglier ways.
This governmental strategy smacks to me of a prohibition of the one of the few means the regular guy on the street still possesses to help him believe he has a real voice at all. ‘Big Brother’ beware, meddle with these special allegiances at your peril. These factions and feelings exist and actually already act as a proactive and healthier initiative than their origins and instigators.
The true football, sports fan is after all like an ant.
They are loyal and determined, the consummate team players. They will stand by their chosen ‘queen’ team through thick and thin and defend their ‘club’ with passion, ingenuity and skill when others attack or ridicule them. When cornered they show tremendous unity and an iron resolve which although painful in defeat brings satisfaction and exaltation in victory. There are not many stronger human ties than the loyalty shown than by a fan for their team.
Let governments listen and learn, not meddle and mess, when assessing the behavior of impassioned sports fans, for nations would do well rather to bottle and mainstream such passion and pride into their communities water source. A shot of what they are toting from their own volition, at their own expense and in the face of success or failure would do many a nations spirit more than a world of good.
‘SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD’
– ANOTHER ELTON SONG – BUT JOE’S EX-VOICE
APPENDIX – INTERESTING ARTICLES ETC