Another game and another negative headline involving Celtic’s away supporters hits the pages of Scotland’s mainstream media outlets.
Surprised? Not really given the continued misbehaviour of elements within the ranks of Celtic’s away supporters of late.
The game last night in Zagreb may have been meaningless in the grand scheme of things as Celtic had already qualified for the knock out stages of the Europa League, but that didn’t stop around 1500 supporters making the trip to support their team.
Before they travelled Celtic warned their supporters – once again – about the use of flares and other pyrotechnics adding that they would be sanctioned by UEFA.
Low and behold a flare was set off within the Celtic support and while detractors of UEFA and purveyors of ULTRA-esque displays would highlight other clubs supporters using flares and fireworks on an epic scale – Celtic supporters have had enough warnings in the past from the club, police and football governing bodies.
There will be no surprise from within Celtic Park if UEFA fine them once again for the behaviour of their away supporters and surely it must be the last straw for the club with these elements that continue to drag the club in front of the authorities to be punished.
This is certainly not an isolated case given the actions of these elements at Ajax, Dundee, Motherwell, Hearts and even at a youth game against Rangers at Firhill.
You had the so-called Style Mile Vandals [affiliated with the Green Brigade]who vandalise property wherever they go – including the much highlighted and disgusting graffiti at Tynecastle two weeks ago mocking those 66 Rangers fans who died in the Ibrox stadium disaster.
Celtic’s statement in the aftermath was more like the ‘whataboutery’ that fans peddle, than a club that should be leading by example and taking action against this unwanted mob. They may have labelled them ‘not Celtic supporters’ but if it looks like a lemon, smells like a lemon and tastes like a lemon – then its a lemon.
Pointing out Hearts fans indiscretions is all well and good, we know all clubs have an unwanted element, but to deflect from the real issue is shameful from Celtic’s point of view. Celtic’s greatest ever manager Jock Stein was in the thick of the Ibrox disaster helping those Rangers fans injured and dying. He didn’t care about rivalries, he didn’t care about whataboutery – he knew there was something more important than a mere game of football.
Those who vandalised that Tynecastle toilet shamed not only the memories of those who died, but also the memory of Stein a man they supposedly worship, adore and laud.
There have been accusations made about the heavy-handedness of the Zagreb police following last night’s 4-3 defeat, but it is a known fact that Eastern European police are not merely police in the sense as what our police are – they are paramilitary. They battle hooliganism on a weekly scale at their own games and are always in riot gear so that they can pile into a section at a moments notice. Another thing that Police Scotland do not do for fear of the violence escalating.
Looking at several videos published showing the Zagreb police in the Celtic end, you can quite clearly see Celtic fans standing their ground and being aggressive in their body language towards the officers. It is a scene that Police Scotland are all too aware of and experienced over the years. While this tactic may work with Scottish Police, Croatian Police didn’t stand for it using batons and CS spray on these ‘hardcore ULTRA-wannabe’ element.
Celtic fans can reminisce about them being given a fair play award by UEFA in 2003, but a new element have infested the Celtic support and continue to stain the club and it’s reputation within European and World football. When will Celtic stop ignoring this element, stop backtracking over bans and grow a pair and ban these shameful elements for good?
Will it take the death of a fan for the club to make a decision? Will it be a significant fine and supporters ban from UEFA to hammer home the problem that Celtic have? This element may be seen as a bunch of neds by some, but it doesn’t matter if they are a ned or a 40-year-old drunken lout causing the trouble – at the end of the day Celtic are the ones who face the brunt of the punishments when it is those responsible that should be facing the consequences of their actions.
Time to act Celtic before it is too late.