Tag Archives: the Old Firm

The Strange Case of Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers Football Club

11 Jul

Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island fame, penned a novella that many consider to be a foundation stone of modern fiction’s addiction to substances, transformation and death – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll liked to swallow chemicals turning himself into something unpredictable, Mr. Hyde. It’s a good metaphor for the calamity that is tearing Scottish soccer apart.

Think of Scottish soccer as a test tube in Dr. Jekyll’s lab marked with skull and cross bones, WARNING – DO NOT SHAKE! Sitting at the top of the mix is the colors of Irish green and British blue – green is the substance called Glasgow Celtic Football Club bonded to the blue known as Glasgow Rangers Football Club. Mix them up and they can explode but when they sit side by side at rest they produce something called the Old Firm, a successful alliance of opposites that has largely dominated Scottish soccer, economically and culturally, for over a hundred years. The elements that make up their wholes would require too long a label to delineate – suffice to summarize it as an emulsion of historical grievance, religious division, sectarianism, and nationalist politics that produces a soccer clash unrivaled anywhere in the world. The Old Firm is the defining intense soccer rivalry. Super hot, beyond sport.

But now things have changed. The tube has been ruptured. The blue half of the mix has evaporated. Rangers have been declared bankrupt due to many years of mismanagement. They consumed a hubristic formula of reckless expenditure in an effort to destroy their other half, Celtic. They failed. And were left weak to the point of death like Dr. Jekyll.

They have been discharged from the top Scottish league. The league rules and the animosity of rival clubs and their fan bases dictated their plunge. They now face the prospect of starting from scratch in the bottom division of Scottish football, three levels below the top tier. The economic implications are negative. Fears for other teams evaporating are real. Rangers worked the pump of investment in the Scottish game – their games with Celtic broadcast globally, a premium brand – the Old Firm was the bank that all the other clubs had an interest in. No Old Firm game and it could mean less or no money from TV contracts, and therefore less monies to share with the other clubs. The prospect of Scottish soccer boiling down is now a possibility.

The Scottish Football Association believes it may be the end for the Scottish game should Rangers not be allowed to return to the top flight within a year. Besides the economic armageddon for the clubs, the chiefs have warned of “social unrest” if Rangers are exiled to the deep. It’s an extraordinary claim that social strife could result as a consequence of a soccer club going bust. The commentary from Scottish soccer fans has ranged from celebratory dances on Rangers grave to dire warnings of revenge when/if Rangers return from the shadows.

Dr. Jekyll was unrecognizable after swallowing the poison – disfigured, mean and hostile – and finally death. Will Scottish soccer follow the script or synthesize a new beginning free from the mix of the Old Firm chemistry?

Scotland’s Rangers and Celtic as a Zombie Flick

17 Feb

Saw this piece on The Header, a new online soccer magazine.


As Scotland’s biggest football club, Glasgow Rangers, falls into bankruptcy, imagine the story as a completely unrealistic, crap horror film. Apologies to both Rangers and Celtic fans for the suspension of disbelief.

 

 

NOW SHOWING – THE OLD FIRM starring Celtic and Rangers

At the dying heart of Scottish football are two zombies, Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic, known as the Old Firm. They have terrorized their soccer politic for well over a century. Together, they ate the life out of Scottish football. Their zombie flesh transfused by a foreign host, in this case, cousin Ireland. Descendants of Irish immigrant Catholics in Glasgow, many loyal to their ancestral roots, are the Celtic choir for the Irish tricolor in Scotland. Inside Celtic’s stadium some, (director’s note) but not all, once sang for the brigades fighting to unite Ireland.

Cue the conflict scenes with the British Union Jack-loving Rangers, the neighbor across town, holding the line against this encroachment of Irish popery in Celtic uniforms, a clear and present danger to British civilization if you are somewhat Protestant and have consumed enough lager and bigotry on a Saturday afternoon in Glasgow. Naturally, both zombies become bloated with vanity and money from the divide-and-rule arrangement. Politicians, religious institutions and corporate sponsors plunge their teeth into the necks of the zombies while many in other parts of Scotland wish they would die, or go to Ireland to fight it out.

It is the football version of Groundhog Day. The Scottish football season awakens every year to the same script. Who will win the League? Celtic or Rangers? Rangers or Celtic? Perhaps next season it will be Rangers or Celtic? The dark winter continues for decades. Suddenly, the host in Ireland gives up supplying flesh. The proxy zombies break out in wounds, the old bruises don’t heal, sectarian boils suppurate openly on the skin of Scotland, some call it Scotland’s shame, and the veins begin to rot, the Old Firm zombies slash and lash at each other in a terrible frenzy, staggering through the death throes of yesterday, hungering for the sash and the ribbon of their abandoned host. But it is not to be found. The Irish are at peace.

The Rangers zombie, the muscular one that refused to play any Catholics in its team until 1989, finds itself desperate. The zombie’s business arm has grabbed other people’s money and commits to painful surgery, transplanting its decaying organs with modernity – to be new, to be a modern soccer club, to compete at the heights of European glory. But the body rejects the transplant. The zombie begins to die. The vultures move in. They sell the silverware. They dismantle the red bricks of Rangers’ hallowed ground, Ibrox. Tributaries of Protestant tears flow into Glasgow’s River Clyde, turning it blue. Across the city, the Celtic zombie is alone, lost without its other half, and soccer, being a game of two halves, loses its most famous act.

Roll the credits.

Reviews for this film –

“Can we get our money back? That was total rubbish. Complete, unrealistic crap.”
“Totally one-sided and biased nonsense. Obviously, a Rangers hater.”
“Totally one-sided and biased nonsense. Obviously, a Celtic hater.”
“As a zombie, I am insulted by the stereotypical depictions in this insulting film.”
“Is there a sequel in the works?”
“Casting Mel Gibson as the Pope was an inspired move, well done!”

Next week at this cinema – a new Scottish independent film starring…