Saturday, May 17, 2008

Scottish Soccer Hooligans

Growing up, I spent my summers working for my family's business on the Jersey Shore. For years, Irish students would come over on the J-1 visa to work in the hotels, restaurants, bars, and arcades in the area. Many of the guys would bring over the jerseys of their favorite soccer clubs and one in particular caught my eye. It was the white and green "hoops" of the Scottish club Celtic who played in Glasgow. I had always enjoyed soccer as a kid, but talking to the Irish kids about Celtic and their storied history, I really took to the team. Some might say it even had a (small) influence on my decision to go to Ireland for my junior year abroad in Dublin.

I quickly learned about Celtic's long and lethal rivalry with their cross-town rivals, the Rangers (boring jersey below). For Americans it is difficult to understand the complex and deep-seated rivalries that exist in the soccer world. Sure, we have had Red Sox-Yankees, Eagles-Cowboys, Michigan-Ohio State, and Lakers-Celtics, but soccer rivalries many times bring competition to a whole new level. (Check out Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World for a good, though very basic, introduction to the politics of the game. It's good beach reading).

Anyhow, the Celtic - Rangers rivalry stems not only from the fact that both teams are from Glasgow, but that historically, Celtic draws it support from Catholics (hence the Irish connection) and Rangers from Protestants. So think Red Sox - Yankees with hundreds of years of bigotry and sectarianism thrown in. It's often not a pretty sight and nothing to be romanticized when fans clash in and outside the stadium. So while I in no way condone the hooliganism that sometimes breaks out when these teams meet up, I can't help but say "stupid Rangers fans" (that's the PG version) when I saw this footage of them running wild and fighting police on the streets of Manchester, England following their team's 2-0 loss to Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup final last week. Shameful.

For a more light-hearted, though vomit-inducing, take on Scottish hooligans, take a trip down memory lane to Mike Myers' skit on SNL. Strangely enough, the scarves they are wearing are of English clubs. Artistic license, I guess.

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