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Alan Black

Alan Black

Posted: March 3, 2011 10:25 PM

If you are small and are forced to wear a big overcoat things can get hot and dizzy and you can find yourself out of place. This best describes the intimate bedfellows of Scottish soccer, Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic. Scotland's biggest clubs thrive on a fierce, globally supported rivalry rooted in another country's past troubles -- Ireland. Their most recent match-ups have resulted in team coaches squaring up to each other, brutal field play and hundreds of post-game arrests for violence, sectarian crimes and domestic violence. Sections of Scottish society and the police are calling for the game to be either banned or played behind closed doors.

It is almost impossible to write about Celtic and Rangers fairly without drawing derision from all sides. The weaving historical plays of Irish immigrant Catholics with Scottish Protestants and its part in the jigsaw of keeping the British political Union intact is tough territory. The danger of sparking more unrest is ever present in Scotland's largest city. Best to wait for things to blow over after the game, after all, this decades old recurring Glasgow fever only lasts a short while. The city's big Irish overcoat absorbs the blood, sweat and tears. Glasgow is famous for its swagger. The dizziness caused by the heat of the divide rolls into the city's walk. Glasgow never falls down. It staggers on.

Condemnation. Why bother? It produces more of the same. Better to think outside the box. Rangers and Celtic could play against each other wearing each others uniform. That would be funny. Glaswegians like to laugh. The minority of fans who are violent, and it is a small minority, could whack tartan piñatas placed at the stadium gates. Pick up the candy with a message -- Be Nice -- We are all Glaswegians. Instead of the players coming out of the tunnel holding the hands of a child doomed to repeat the past, they could hold each others hands, and walk around the field together waving to the fans. And instead of the songs of the Irish tribes, the clubs could broadcast Glasgow's national anthem over the PA system before, during, and after the game -- I Belong to Glasgow, Dear Old Glasgow Toon. Of course, all this nonsense might ruin the profitable tsunami effect of the rivalry.

Maybe in a hundred years, maybe a thousand, maybe never, the city can stop going round and round and switch its green and orange Irish overcoat for one made of plaid.