Since the start of The Celtic Network we have formed a close working relationship with Maley’s Bhoys forum and over that time I have been fortunate to meet Frank the creator of the site. I can testify to the fact that Frank is a very honest and decent guy. Yesterday he contacted us to ask if we would publish an article he was planing to release on the Maley’s Bhoys forum in the hope that he could reach as wide an audience as possible.
We were more than happy to agree and I’m glad to say that the article has had over 8,000 views on Maleys bhoys. However regardless of that we are more than happy to stick by our promise and publish the article on TCN.
The article shows the under belly of the vile Hearts support, a support that I have always considered as being worse than the Rangers support when it comes to overt racism and bigotry. This article backs up that assertion
Important:Before anyone reads this article, I must highlight that it is not suitable for children, and that some of the slurs within it (even when ***’d out) are quotes, in context, that I feel need to be shared. At Maley’s Bhoys, we are, and will always continue to be, fully opposed to any sort of racism. I only use these quotes as I feel this sickening story needs to be told, and because we should not ignore what some people in this country seem to believe is acceptable. This article has been read and approved prior to publishing by the individuals mentioned within it. Thank you.
Seven years ago, almost to the day (10th April 2005), Celtic faced Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Cup semi final, at Hampden Park, Glasgow. In fact, the score, 2-1, read the same as it did yesterday, except for the fact it was the other way around, with Celtic progressing to the final that day. However, this is not an article about football; this is an article about what surrounds football, in “the best wee country in the world”.
A little over a week previous to that tie, Pope John Paul II, the leader of one of the world’s largest religions, sadly lost his life at the age of eighty four. As a mark of respect, the Scottish Football Association decided there would be a minute of silence held for the late Pontiff before each of the weekend’s semi-finals. The silence held at the first semi final, played on Saturday between Dundee United and Hibernian, was observed very well by both sets of supporters.
Sadly, the next day, the minute’s silence was ended by referee Stuart Dougal after approximately twenty seconds; such was the noise being generated within the sections of the stadium which housed the Hearts supporters. This disruption was not generated by a few “drunken hooligans”, but, by all accounts, by thousands upon thousands of Hearts supporters, booing, whistling, and waving their scarves above their heads. Despite claims from Hearts Chief Executive, Phil Anderton, that only a “small section” of their fans were responsible for the interruption, this was a show of racism and bigotry ‘en masse’ from the Tynecastle club’s supporters. For the record, only six arrests were made that day for “sectarian hate crimes”, but I digress.
In light of this embarrassing incident, Mr Anderton (correctly) wrote to both the SFA and Celtic Football Club to express his regret and apologise for the manner in which some Hearts supporters acted that day, stating “We are trying to generate an atmosphere where families are happy to return to football grounds”. Clearly, Hearts have not had much success in controlling some of their supporters, as last season Celtic saw their manager, Neil Lennon, attacked by a Hearts fan on the touchline at Tynecastle after a Celtic goal.
Now, if I may fast forward your mind to the present day, and the incidents this article relates to. Yesterday, Celtic lost 2-1 to Heart of Midlothian. Congratulations to the Edinburgh side in this regard. It sets up a mouth watering tie between themselves and their city rivals, Hibernian, in the Scottish Cup Final in May.
However, sadly, this is where my praise for Heart of Midlothian Football Club ends today. Tens of thousands of supporters visited the national stadium yesterday, and while many will remember a fairly dreary game where their team lost, or an exciting game which their team won, there are some people who will not remember yesterday for the football.
Akbar and Haaris are not names any of you will know. They are the names of two young Celtic supporters, aged fourteen and twelve respectively, who attended their first football match yesterday, at Hampden Park. Along with their older cousin, Josh (18), his little brother Saif (15) and their older cousin Shumsad (28), they travelled to the semi final filled with excitement, because Josh had “hyped them up to believe that seeing Celtic really is magic”.
However, before the group, including the two youngest Bhoys, had even reached their turnstiles at Hampden Park, they were subjected to some truly Draconian abuse from Hearts supporters. Josh describes walking along the road towards the stadium, a street filled with a mixture of both Celtic and Hearts supporters. As he held Haaris’ hand, guiding him through the mass of bodies, he tells how Hearts fans were jumping in front of their group, shouting (amongst other insults), “Fenian B******s” and “Rule Britannia! F**k Ireland! Go Back Home!” At one stage, a Hearts supporter even attempted to grab one of the group’s scarves and spat at them.
Thankfully, once the party managed to merge themselves in with a larger group of Celtic supporters, they continued to the ground with only the occasional slur being thrown their way. Around the same time yesterday, before the match itself, another Celtic supporter, Karen, walked to the ground from the nearby train station.
Once again, on a street she describes as being “50-50” in terms of supporters allegiances, chants of “Championees” from Celtic fans were met by chants of “Dirty Fenian B******s” and the Tynecastle adaption of that well known anthem of peace and love, the “Billy Boys”. Continuing their open minded songbook, they proceeded to sing about the child abuse that happened decades ago at Celtic Boys Club, and make what appeared to be Nazi salutes. All this, while hundreds of children (supporters of both sides may I add), were within earshot, innocently heading to watch a football match.
As a “very reasonable older man and his wife” complained to the police about the sectarian chanting, they were told to “move on” by officers who instead decided to book someone for walking along the street with an open can of beer. There were also reports of street vendors selling T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Oh the Hibees Are Gay” and, unsurprisingly, similar incidents involving sectarian singing from the Hearts support during, and after, the match.
It was only after telling me all of this that Karen mentioned she had attended the match with her young nephew, and while describing herself as “a far from overly sensitive person”, she admitted she felt unsafe for him on a couple of occasions yesterday. Plainly, this is totally unacceptable.
Now, sadly, we return to the first group of people we spoke about. After watching Celtic lose to a resilient Hearts side, Josh and his family began what should have been a “ten minute walk home”. The young Bhoys had enjoyed the game itself, especially singing with the rest of the Celtic support, but this was all to change as (once again) they found themselves the targets of abuse from Hearts supporters.
Once they had left the stadium, Josh and his relatives walked towards the end of the ground which had housed the Hearts support. As they walked amongst the Celtic support, the larger group as a whole were the subject of laughs and shouts, but this was to become much more personal only moments later. As they turned onto another road, now walking past Hearts supporters heading in the other direction, Josh says “then it started”.
When Josh says “it”, he means racist abuse. As the cries of “P**i Fenian B******s” and “F***ing C***s, Go Back Home You P**i B******s” rained down upon the group, Josh described how one man jumped in front of Haaris and shouted “P**i B*****d” in his face. Now, just consider that for a second. What sort of person (let alone an adult) think it’s acceptable to jump in front of a twelve year old child and scream racist abuse in his face? I’ll tell you; a moronic, bigoted, racist individual who should be locked up for their crime…and in this case, this individual (who must have been incredibly brave to take on a twelve year old) was also a Hearts supporter.
Clearly, some Hearts supporters don’t celebrate in the same way as the rest of us football fans. While he could have been singing his team’s praises and relishing a historic semi final win for the underdog, he decided instead to scare the life out of a child, who posed absolutely no threat to him whatsoever.
As Josh gripped Haaris’ hand and attempted to guide him through the crowds, he says “there was nothing more he could do”, other than to grip his little cousin’s hand tighter and attempt to get out of the situation they found themselves in as quickly as possible. As they eventually found their way out of the crowds, and the racist slurs subsided, the group took a different route home from that they normally take, and arrived home around half an hour after they left the ground (keep in mind this was meant to be a ten minute journey).
Josh assures me that they are all ok after their ordeal, but that the younger Bhoys are, understandably, shocked by what they experienced. I could only despair when I heard this story after the match yesterday. It shocked me, utterly, but in a sad way, did not massively surprise me. This “One Scotland, Many Cultures” slogan that is banded about is a great ideal. People should be able to live in a country with each other without fear of persecution, regardless of what colour their skin is, regardless of what religion they follow (if indeed they choose to follow one), and regardless of what football team they support.
Today, in the newspapers, we will all see stories of how “Celtic Bottled It” and “A Gritty Hearts Performance Sent Their Support Into Raptures”. What we will not see are stories like those I have written about, and in truth, these are far more important any football match.
I remember my first Celtic match vividly. Celtic beat Aberdeen 3-0 at Celtic Park in 1997, with two goals from Jorge Cadete, and one from Simon Donnelly. Very few people remember that match, but I do, like it was yesterday, because it meant so much to me.
These Bhoys will not look back on their first match with a tinge of unhappiness because Celtic were beaten, but because they were subject to clear, repeated, vocal racist abuse that went totally unpunished. It is a sad reflection not only on the Hearts support, but on Scottish Society as a whole.
Oh, and while I remember, I should mention the saddest things of all. The abuse directed at these people from the Hearts supporters did not come just from the stereotypical “drunken hooligans”, but from men and women, young and old. Also, had yesterday been another day, and if he had not have been at a friend’s birthday party, Josh’s youngest brother, Kess (11), would have been there too.
Imagine if that was your son or daughter, niece or nephew or cousin, whoever you support. Just imagine how you’d feel. Welcome to Scotland, 2012, the “best wee country in the world”.