A man draped in Celtic top could be viewed strolling on to the bus with what resembled a carrier bag brimming with bananas. In an era when men sported Graeme Souness moustaches and Frank McAvennie mullets as standard practice, the sight of fruit in Glasgow seemed like an odd occurrence, even before the latest helping of a touchy fixture that has never ceased to throw up large sequences of unplanned mayhem.
It later transpired that the bananas were intended for the black player Mark Walters, a winger who had signed for Rangers from Aston Villa hours before the match.
The bananas shamefully lay strewn before a drenched ‘Jungle’ area of the old Celtic Park, a spot not far from where Celtic’s enthusiastic band of supporters known as the ‘Green Brigade’ can be found on match days in the revamped ground. This singing section of ultras support the team while also making their political feelings on wider issues, especially relating to the political make-up of Ireland, be known.
It has been 23 years since Walters was racially abused at Celtic Park. With a mission statement that describes itself as ‘a broad front of anti-fascist, anti-racist and anti-sectarian Celtic supporters’, it is perhaps inconceivable that a member of the Green Brigade or the wider Celtic-minded family would racially abuse a player, but old habits die hard in small splinter groups of the Glasgow club’s vast support.
Celtic have endured problems policing IRA chants away from home, but their emergence on their own doorstep in recent times is something that must be handled with the realisation that while they may be offensive/illicit and unwanted, such chants may not be illegal.
This morning I heard on the radio that racism is not in the game of footballs anymore but has it really changed much from 23 years ago. Society has but it seems that a handful of football fans and maybe even some plays will be staying in there primitive minds.
By Sophie Mccormack