The National Obsession

Football season is back upon us, with the summer break over we are underway in the UK, all bar the English Premier League which starts this weekend coming.

It was good to see the Scottish games get underway with no dramas other than on the park, as we’ve again had a summer where off field is making more news than anything to do with playing.

We’ve had fans behaving appallingly, with videos and pictures plastered over social media and the press fanning the flames. There was the usual keyboard warrior action in forums where fans claim the moral high ground over rivals as ‘their behaviour is much worse than ours’ being touted around, along with ‘disgrace’ and ‘scum’. While I understand people reacting, they are also part of the problem by participating in that manner.

Where focus has been on Scotland’s two biggest clubs, Rangers & Celtic who are both in Glasgow. Traditionally, the fan base of these two clubs has fallen down a religious lines and also links with Ireland, north and south. Why this has any bearing other than football in the 20th century is beyond me. Even as a boy, I went to games and watched grown men shout and bawl the most vile abuse at people who weren’t even at that game, or even in Scotland.

Then there were the roaming gangs ‘are you a Billy or a Dan?’ which the wrong answer would get you a beating. Luckily, I was quick with the mouth and could run, so I avoided it but I never really understood how someone could be so committed to hating complete because of the football team or religion they followed.

Then it hit me: it’s learned behaviour and not much more than thuggery. Most had not seen the inside of a church for many years and had their hatred handed down to them by a parent or group pressure. If you didn’t belong to a group, you weren’t protected and were effectively cut adrift with a target on your back.

I was fortunate. Although where I was born and grew up had a problem, and still has, there was a view among my peers that this prejudice was old news and wasn’t allowed to affect us. My good friends split down football lines but that was it and we remain good friends, with a rival spirit that doesn’t affect how we behave with each other. We like each other for who we are as people, regardless of anything else.

I still don’t understand why we were split at five when we went to school, with kids in the same street being bused to schools in different locations due to religious lines. We covered this one before in a previous blog, for this post it’s more about me still not understanding why as I do believe that perpetuates division in the local community.

Then we have the footie fans who in the past few weeks, months and years have proved that it is tribal and their behaviour is nothing more than thuggery, showing an intolerant ignorance that has no place in society today. Yet, it persists being handed down through generations and despite constant outbursts from people and the media, nothing fundamental happens to change this behaviour.

I follow my team with passion and love a good bit of banter with mates or like minded fans who take the football seriously, but not life and death, nor on religious lines.

I would dearly love to see an end to this cycle and find a way out of these centuries old divisions that have no place in the modern world.

I live in hope.

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