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Minute’s silence disturbance at Pittodrie signals another low in the Scottish game

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The Aberdeen Evening Express has reported that two Celtic supporters were arrested and charged with assault following a “minor disturbance in the away fans’ section during the minute silence” for Remembrance Sunday before the Aberdeen – Celtic match.

Match commander Superintendent Innes Walker said: “The overwhelming majority of the sell-out crowd from all sections of the ground respected the minute silence and behaved impeccably throughout the entire game.

“Police Scotland will continue to work with Aberdeen Football Club to improve the matchday experience for all spectators but fans must be aware that any form of unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with firmly, as it would in any other part of the fine city of Aberdeen.”

Now every decent human being would understand that at this time of year, it is a time for dignified remembrance to those who fought and those who died fighting to protect our way of life.

The Poppy, in my own opinion, is all about remembering those who paid the ultimate price in World War One and Two and the donations received each year goes to supporting ex-servicemen and women who returned home.

Of course the Poppy is now being seen or at least used to remember and support all war veterans up to the present day. While there are people who do support this, the Poppy will forever signify remembrance of those in the two world wars.

Those who are regular readers of Scotzine, know my feelings on Remembrance Day and the actions of a minority of Celtic fans who have acted shamefully by singing or chanting throughout the minute’s silence in previous years.

To prevent a repeat of the singing/chanting through the minute’s silence against Falkirk back in 2009, clubs who faced Celtic in the years following – including Celtic themselves – turned the minute’s silence into a minutes applause. This was a predictable plan to try to silence, to what I have long described as ‘scum’ within the support who have no dignity and no respect of other people’s beliefs and forcing their own onto others.

Sunday’s incident was significantly less disruptive than the Falkirk game back in 2009 and there were no signs of that disgraceful bloodstained poppy banner from the Green Brigade either.

copyright William Vass

copyright William Vass

It is not known yet what the two Celtic fans who disrupted the minute’s silence on Sunday have been charged with, whether breach of the peace or breaching the Offensive Behaviour in Football act – but what they are guilty of is dishonouring and disrespecting the memory of those who paid the ultimate price.

Everyone has the choice of wearing or not wearing the poppy – and I fully understand the reasons behind certain people not to wear the poppy – but it is down to the individual and not society to decide.

Sadly it seems there is an increasing number of poppy fascists who spout their moral outrage each year at those who do not donate or do not adorn their clothing with the poppy.

One footballer, James McClean, is a regular target for these ‘poppy fascists’ as he refuses to wear a poppy and even received death threats in 2012 over it.

The Wigan midfielder, ahead of the game against Bolton, wrote a letter to Wigan chairman Dave Whelan explaining the reasons behind his decision.

The Northern Irishman stated that his rejection of wearing the poppy was down to those who lost their lives in the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, when 26 people were shot and 14 died after the British Army fired upon a civil rights demonstration in Derry, where McClean was born.

The letter read: “Dear Mr Whelan, I wanted to write to you before talking about this face to face and explain my reasons for not wearing a poppy on my shirt for the game at Bolton.

“I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars – many I know were Irish-born. I have been told that your own Grandfather Paddy Whelan, from Tipperary, was one of those. I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one.

“I want to make that 100% clear .You must understand this. But the Poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.

“For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different. Please understand, Mr Whelan, that when you come from Creggan like myself or the Bogside, Brandywell or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland’s history – even if like me you were born nearly 20 years after the event. It is just a part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.

“Mr Whelan, for me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday especially – as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII. It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people.

“I am not a war monger, or anti-British, or a terrorist or any of the accusations levelled at me in the past. I am a peaceful guy, I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs which I respect and ask for people to respect mine in return. Since last year, I am a father and I want my daughter to grow up in a peaceful world, like any parent.

“I am very proud of where I come from and I just cannot do something that I believe is wrong. In life, if you’re a man you should stand up for what you believe in. I know you may not agree with my feelings but I hope very much that you understand my reasons. As the owner of the club I am proud to play for, I believe I owe both you and the club’s supporters this explanation.”

You have to respect McClean’s stance and belief in not wearing the poppy, but those who refuse to wear the poppy also have to follow the lead of McClean by respecting the beliefs of those who do wear the poppy. To boo, to chant or to sing throughout a minute’s silence is disrespectful and undignified.

There were plenty of Celtic fans on Sunday who are against the wearing of the Poppy, but they stood silent and in a dignified manner, sadly it seems some could not – whether that was down to booze or the lack of dignity.

Since I commented on yesterday’s incident I have faced wave of tweets calling Celtic and their fans everything from terrorists, to scumbags to shameful – despite the majority observing the minute’s silence as well as the Celtic management team of Ronny Deila, John Collins and John Kennedy all wearing the poppy. However, the lack of a poppy on Celtic’s kit seems to have angered the ‘poppy fascists’ also – with the most outspoken predictably supporting the club from across Glasgow.

Celtic took the decision, rightly or wrongly, not to choose to wear the poppy on the kit. Instead of embroidering or sewing the poppy onto the Celtic kit, the club instead year on year donates £10,000 to Poppy Scotland – not because they were forced to do so, but because it is their choice to do so. And it is my own personal belief whether you agree with it or not – that the £10,000 is more welcome to Poppy Scotland than 11 players wearing a poppy on their shirts.

Even war veterans are turning their back on wearing the poppy, because they see the symbol being hijacked by politicians.

RAF Veteran Harry Leslie Smith, writing last year said: “Over the last 10 years the sepia tone of November has become blood-soaked with paper poppies festooning the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders. The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. The American civil war’s General Sherman once said that “war is hell”, but unfortunately today’s politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens, in the name of the public good.

“Still, this year I shall wear the poppy as I have done for many years. I wear it because I am from that last generation who remember a war that encompassed the entire world. I wear the poppy because I can recall when Britain was actually threatened with a real invasion and how its citizens stood at the ready to defend her shores. But most importantly, I wear the poppy to commemorate those of my childhood friends and comrades who did not survive the second world war and those who came home physically and emotionally wounded from horrific battles that no poet or journalist could describe.

“However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one’s right to privacy.

“Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war with quotes from Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling and other great jingoists from our past empire, I will declare myself a conscientious objector. We must remember that the historical past of this country is not like an episode of Downton Abbey where the rich are portrayed as thoughtful, benevolent masters to poor folk who need the guiding hand of the ruling classes to live a proper life.

“I can tell you it didn’t happen that way because I was born nine years after the first world war began. I can attest that life for most people was spent in abject poverty where one laboured under brutal working conditions for little pay and lived in houses not fit to kennel a dog today. We must remember that the war was fought by the working classes who comprised 80% of Britain’s population in 1913.

“This is why I find that the government’s intention to spend £50m to dress the slaughter of close to a million British soldiers in the 1914-18 conflict as a fight for freedom and democracy profane. Too many of the dead, from that horrendous war, didn’t know real freedom because they were poor and were never truly represented by their members of parliament.

“My uncle and many of my relatives died in that war and they weren’t officers or NCOs; they were simple Tommies. They were like the hundreds of thousands of other boys who were sent to their slaughter by a government that didn’t care to represent their citizens if they were working poor and under-educated. My family members took the king’s shilling because they had little choice, whereas many others from similar economic backgrounds were strong-armed into enlisting by war propaganda or press-ganged into military service by their employers.

“For many of you 1914 probably seems like a long time ago but I’ll be 91 next year, so it feels recent. Today, we have allowed monolithic corporate institutions to set our national agenda. We have allowed vitriol to replace earnest debate and we have somehow deluded ourselves into thinking that wealth is wisdom. But by far the worst error we have made as a people is to think ourselves as taxpayers first and citizens second.

“Next year, I won’t wear the poppy but I will until my last breath remember the past and the struggles my generation made to build this country into a civilised state for the working and middle classes. If we are to survive as a progressive nation we have to start tending to our living because the wounded: our poor, our underemployed youth, our hard-pressed middle class and our struggling seniors shouldn’t be left to die on the battleground of modern life.”

Via his twitter account on Saturday, Smith commented: “The reaction against #jamesmclean decision not to wear the #poppy proves that #RemembranceDay has been both politicised and militarized.”

Will the ‘poppy fascists’ target Smith for his comments?

It is also interesting to note that Falkirk who played at Ibrox against Rangers, after a volley from an army artillery piece on the sidelines failed to adorn their kit with a poppy also. Did Falkirk receive the same abuse and criticism as Celtic have for not wearing the poppy? Is Falkirk’s failure to stitch a poppy onto their shirts any less disrespectful than Celtic not wearing them? Did Falkirk donate money to Poppy Scotland instead?

How about those clubs in England not wearing the poppy either?

Seems the issue with certain ‘poppy fascists’ is that those involved are Celtic and they don’t care about those others who don’t wear the poppy.

Celtic’s Norwegian manager Ronny Deila, commenting after the 2-1 win over Aberdeen on the disturbance through the minute’s silence, said: “That was disappointing. But again 99 per cent was good. Sometimes some people are not respectful. It’s very, very important for Celtic to be respectful.”

Those Celtic fans who disturbed the minute’s silence on Sunday are the lowest of the low and are not representative of the majority of those Celtic fans who respected the moment of remembrance – whether they agreed with it or not.

It is time that both sides of this issue respected one another’s beliefs and show respect. Those who don’t deserve all the flak and criticism they get.

Lest we forget.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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