9.1.05

Old Firm victory for the Bhoys!


There's nothing like a good game of football (of the European style, that is) to compensate for the miserable Scottish winter weather. Today's game was nothing like a good game of football, but that didn't really matter, because there is nothing like watching your team beat their most bitter rivals to make up for spending the afternoon watching a poor game of football. Even better, is watching your opponents being knocked out of the cup. Old Firm derbies are rarely attractive games to watch: there is no flowery passing and intricate footwork on display. It is not the stage for twinkletoed players, such as Barcelona's Ronaldinho or Deco, or Real's Zidane or Figo. The tackles are hard and often mistimed, the hackles are up, and even foreign players who have no prior experience or knowledge of the history, culture and traditions of the two teams and their supporters, tend to get caught up in the atmosphere. Sometimes the passion explodes in unwanted directions, and on at least one occasion back in the mid-1980s - when Rangers were full of England internationalists, such as Terry Butcher, Graeme Roberts and Ray Wilkins - the police had to get involved when fighting broke out between the players. For a few years, until quite recently, the game was played in the proper sporting spirit (at least between most of the players), and apart from a couple of hotheads on both teams (both foreigners, strangely enough), the games were noted for all the right reasons. Lately, however, there has been a return to the nonsense, and during the last Old Firm games, two Celtic players got sent off, while one player from each team was investigated by the authorities for 'ungentlemanly conduct' (they were kicking lumps out of each other). Today's game didn't explode, which was as much down to the refereeing as to anything the players were doing, because the boots were going in raised, and no-one was shirking from making physical contact. It is said that the Old Firm derby is one of the most passionate games in world football. I don't know about that, but even although the teams play each other at least four times each season, it is always much talked about both during the run up, and in the wake of it. As I have said, it is rarely a pretty game to watch, but it is no worse a spectacle for that. Now if only we could do something about the religious bigotry that is associated with it...

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