How was the soup?
Celtic played very well last Saturday and mauled their city rivals convincingly in front of a delirious Celtic support who celebrated long and loud. However the match was overshadowed somewhat by some pretty poor behaviour by some of those who attended. We got what we have come to expect from the away support with the sectarian songs, banners attacking Jock Stein on the anniversary of his death, paedophile chants and mindless vandalism of the toilets in their section of the ground. It was as moronic as it was predictable and there is a surprising lack of shock at their antics perhaps because they have gone on so long we are all expecting it.
What was less predictable was the actions of some of our own supporters. There can be no defending or deflecting the shame which should be felt by the idiots who thought it would be fun to hang two effigies over the top tier of the stand. All the ‘whataboutery’ in the world won’t change the fact that this was wrong, very wrong. This stupidity was a monumental own goal allowing our myopic media another chance to trot out the ‘both supports are as bad as each other’ mantra they love so well. It was also morally repugnant coming as it did in World Suicide prevention day. The people responsible may not have been aware of that but nonetheless their action will rightly be condemned by all right minded Celtic supporters.
The ‘Know your place Hun Scum’ banner was to say the least lacking in class and imagination. One of the hallmarks of the Celtic support over the years has been their humour and wit. There was precious little of it on display on that flag. Yes, we all know the campaign carried out by some to re-designate the word ‘Hun’ and try and sectarianise it. I’ll never accept it as meaning anything other than Rangers or their less cerebral supporters. But come on, did you seriously expect that banner to go unremarked upon in the current media climate? The attitude from a small but vociferous minority on social media can be summed up in a message I received when I tweeted about these two incidents. It read…
‘You’re doing the media’s work for them. How was the soup?’
The reference to soup goes back to the great hunger in Ireland in the mid nineteenth century when some of the millions of starving Irish were offered food at soup kitchens run by Evangelical Protestants on condition that they converted from Catholicism. The ‘Soupers’ as they became known had transgressed that most important tribal rule by seemingly giving up their faith in order to save their families. Some were shunned for decades and regarded in some way as traitors. The ‘Souper’ reference when aimed at folk like myself is both pathetic and inaccurate. Those poor wretches caught up in the horrors of an Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) faced stark choices. They could watch their children die or ‘take the soup.’ Who knows what any of us would do in similar circumstances. One thing is for sure, no one has a right to judge them. I also feel given this historical reality anyone using such terms to describe fellow Celtic supporters ought to have a good look at themselves.
I openly challenged the effigies and the wisdom of the ‘Hun Scum’ banner, as many Celts did, not because I’m a traitor to Celtic but because I want the support to aspire to the very best principles that the club was founded upon. Those principles are an openness to all and a standard of behaviour and decency which rises above the more base elements such as those which hang around another Glasgow club like a bad smell. Celtic supporters will always try to educate those who occasionally make errors of judgement. The club is too important to too many people to let a small minority tarnish its reputation as we sit idly by in silence.
So it was that in the midst of a media feeding frenzy over events at Celtic Park the team travelled to Barcelona and were brought back to earth with a bump. The Catalans were simply on another planet. Celtic played poorly but few teams in Europe could have withstood Barcelona on that form. It was a hard lesson on the gulf which separates the mega rich super clubs and the rest of European football. Brendan Rodgers was clear that his side have a long way to go before they can cope with teams who pass and move like Barca. His plans for Celtic are still in their infancy and the support still back him to the hilt. This year’s Champions League campaign will undoubtedly bring more pain but it’s part of the learning curve and the money it brings may see us in a better place next season. We may have some interesting ties at home and Borussia Monchengladbach certainly look beatable but we live in hope rather than expectation in this toughest of groups. That realism won’t diminish the passion Celtic supporters will bring to games on Champions League nights but we all know the magnitude of the task we face.
Football has changed beyond recognition since the Lions played their way into immortality. As Celtic head for the modest surroundings of Inverness this weekend they will need to put thoughts on the Camp Nou out of their heads and get back on track. Far superior teams have been whipped by Messi and co and if that going over was painful, at least it helped us temper our expectations. Rodgers has only just begun to restructure the side and I think in another year we will be better able to judge progress. Europe is always the harshest measuring rod of where a team is and we accept that we remain a work in progress.
That being said we are playing some good football and have the nucleus of a good young side. We live in hope of better days in Europe and recognise that success there will be always relative in future. It’s hard to see a team from the smaller European league’s winning the Champions League in the near future given the huge disparity in wealth which UEFA have allowed to occur. That’s not to say that we couldn’t do better than we have in recent years. Thankfully we have in Brendan Rodgers a man who has the know-how and passion to make us a better side.
That thumping in Barcelona hurt but such things happen in football. We don’t give up, we don’t whinge about it. We man up and strive to be better the next time. I signed up with Celtic for life when I first saw Dalglish and Jinky mesmerise defenders; when I first saw those pristine green and white hooped shirts glowing magically in the sunshine. There have been many ups and downs since then in the unpredictable world of football but one certainty in life is that I’ll be backing the Celts till my dying day. I know most of you reading this will feel the same.
This is our club, we are Celtic and Celtic is us. No defeat will ever change that. Hail Hail.