Cheer Up

The recent brouhaha over the “Cheer up” song has highlighted how preposterous the claims are that Scotland is riven with sectarian hatred.

Sectarian, of course, meaning religious.

There has been an ongoing myth that there is a religious divide at the heart of Scottish society but the truth is, you would strive in vain to find it in 21st century Scotland. The old doctrinal and theological arguments between Roman Catholic scholars and their Reformed counterparts are very much a matter of yore these days.

What we have now is not Protestantism versus Catholicism but Proddies v Kafflicks. Today’s so-called religious divide is far more about culture than faith and far more about football allegiance than anything else.

The truth is, Rangers and Celtic fans hate each other. And that hate is not religious, it is tribal.

The epithets of “Orange” and “Fenian” attached to questions of legitimate parenthood are slung relentlessly across the divide. Neither label carries the same religious connotation it once did.

The recent comedic cries of “Orange bastards!” by Celtic supporters directed at Spanish police illustrate the point that for Celtic supporters and others who use this term, they are referring to a perceived anti-Celtic bias in people.

In other words, Orange bastards are Rangers supporters.

Neil McCann, a Catholic, was on the receiving end of this “Orange bastard!” slur simply because he played for Rangers. Since no Catholic can join the Orange Order, the label is preposterous and clearly of zero religious connotation.

As is the term “Fenian bastard’ which has infamously been sung recently by Rangers supporters toward Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke, something which he rightly took great objection to.

Clarke went out of his way to say he was a Catholic but no Fenian. The distinction is far more widely understood than crafty politicians and mischief-making journalists would have us believe. Their agenda-laden attempts to sow seeds of hate and discord among the populace by an increasingly ludicrous claim that when people use the phrase “Fenian” they mean Catholic is looking more and more stupid as time goes on.

Celtic have Protestant supporters and Rangers have Catholic ones. Both clubs are followed by people from other faiths and none. When both sets of fans shout abuse at each other, the Orange and Fenian chants are tribal, not religious. Unless, of course you can have Protestant and Catholic Muslims and atheists.

The tribal stuff is childish, of course. It is a throwback from the playground, not church or seminary. But such is the nature of football rivalries.

We also need to take into account that for both Rangers and Celtic the ramped-up rivalry is arguably the biggest part of the marketing mix.

Bigotry sells.

Only, let’s be grown up about it and stop deluding ourselves it is religious bigotry.

As a wise man once said to me, the problem is not that there is too much religion in Scottish football; the real problem is there is not enough.