Breaking the Silence


Another Remembrance Sunday, another Celtic away game, another contrived controversy about the inability of Celtic fans to shut up for sixty seconds.

Column inches have been, in advance, written about what can be done to stop this sort of thing on one hand, and on the other why it would be the height of fascism to stop this sort of thing.

Both arguments are manifestly fraudulent.

Celtic fans did nothing illegal, but there is nothing noble or political or decent about yelling obscenities while 5,500 others are standing in silence. This is not a crime. Celtic should not be punished. But equally, it was all so utterly pointless.

For the absence of any doubt, let me state my position. The small proportion of Celtic fans who disrupted the remembrance silence at the home of Ross County, a club which bears the crest of the Seaforth Highlanders, did absolutely nothing wrong.

But equally, they did nothing which in any sense represents eloquent (or even ineloquent) political activism.

Apologists such as Jeanette Findlay’s embarrassing attempts at martyring a few hundred drunk football fans are transparent. She’s not speaking for the downtrodden, the silent or the oppressed. Hers is not the voice of a pacifist. It is the thoughtless bile of a myopic bigot.

Equally, too, is the faux outrage expressed by the savage right-wing sporting press who were oh-so-quick to take the moral high ground. Two sides of the same coin. The minority of Celtic fans who yelled during the silence were precisely that.

In Celtic’s support – a minority in the stadium – they again were grossly outnumbered. Their behaviour was, whilst not illegal, and certainly nothing worthy of authoritarian action, utterly embarrassing. It was embarrassing for Celtic Football Club, which remains the sole footballing entity in this country whose fans cannot be quiet for a minute once a year. The only club for whom this becomes an issue is Celtic. To that end Celtic is the one who suffers. And make no mistake, Celtic fans realise this fact. Hence the vast majority of the away support rounding on the drunken few.

There was anger in the Celtic end on Sunday. The Celtic support showed positive signs of at least attempting to self-police. It was, clearly, embarrassing for Celtic’s support. And of course, it was embarrassing to all of us with even a touch of common decency, including those at Ross County, a club which had the misfortune of knowing long in advance that those scenes were inevitable.

But it was not illegal, and nor should it be. Celtic cannot and should not be punished for this. It is not a moral imperative to stay silent for a few seconds. If Celtic fans want to yell and jeer and mock, they can do so. And they did. They have the right to say what they want, up to the point that they start committing a hate crime. Under no definition of that nebulous term did they do so. Hence the stewards and the police, needed only when Celtic come to town, took no action.

In the end, Celtic fans are their own worst enemy. There was no political point being made. A routine – if slightly flattering – victory has been totally overshadowed. The club’s pressurised manager was forced to make a public condemnation on an issue he, by his own admission, has no real understanding. He apologised on behalf of Celtic F.C. He apologised to Ross County F.C. He did so on his own volition. The minority of Celtic fans should heed his words; you can have all the political views you want, and you can express them however you feel. But for your own dignity, and for all of sixty seconds one day in a year, shut the hell up.

The idea that somehow there was a valid, political expression being made is laughable. This line of argument is egotistical and self-serving. Celtic fans are not the only people capable of empathy. They speak no more for the oppressed or the voiceless than Airdrie fans or East Stirlingshire fans or any other damn club you choose.

Perhaps worst of all, it subjects the act of silence to an agenda. The silence does not glorify war. It does not promote any occupational campaign. It is a time for remembering the fallen. It is a time in which we, as a community, remember the utter futility of war. Lest we forget does not refer to past glories. It refers to past tragedies. Drunken Celtic fans (and their brain dead apologists in the tabloid world) would do well to remember that. But so should their critics.

In the end, this will happen again next year. And some folk will pretend to be offended, and take the chance to show how much holier they are. This is, yet again, an argument in which both sides are plainly wrong. Lest we forget? If only we could.


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