Scottish Soccer Fans Jeer Pope

Via the Drudge Report comes this Associated Press dispatch:

Fans at Soccer Game in Scotland Jeer Pope

Fans at a Scottish Cup soccer game jeered during a minute’s silence for Pope John Paul II on Sunday, forcing the tribute to be cut short.

The booing by Hearts fans came before the semifinal against Celtic, which has mostly Catholic fans. Referee Stuart Dougal ended the memorial less than halfway through because of the noise. The game was televised in Britain and overseas.

Hearts chief executive Phil Anderton criticized the fans’ conduct and apologized to Celtic and the Scottish Football Association.

“It is disturbing that some Hearts fans failed to see the significance of this occasion,” he said. “There is no room for that sort of behavior in the game.”

Reprehensible, though hardly unsurprising to those of us who’ve followed the Protestant-Catholic animosity undergirding these soccer rivalries. We can only be thankful that Celtic wasn’t playing archrival Rangers. Franklin Foer provided the relevant background in an August 2004 interview with Mother Jones:

One of the striking things about that ugly rivalry, between the Protestant club and the Catholic club, is that it takes place in Scotland, which, to an American, looks like the ultimate global city — it’s advanced, it’s capitalist, it’s Western. But sectarian hatred still exists all over the place and it continues to be expressed in a very crude way. It’s really unsettling to stand in a stadium with 7,000 Catholics and [to hear] 40,000 Protestants singing about being up to their knees in Fenian blood.

For additional information, see How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization.

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Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. Anthony says:

    It’s pretty unpleasant and there’s no excuse for it. It ought to be pointed out that in the broader scheme of things the unpleasantness is pretty evenly spread between the two sides. There’s a LOT of overt IRA support among Celtic fans, for example.

  2. Indeed, Anthony.

  3. Keezo says:

    The hate is not spread evenly. Rangers refused to even employ Catholics for a hundred years. The “one side as bad as the other” argument no longer washes. Neither side is perfect, but Rangers are without a doubt worse.

  4. Katy D says:

    I live in Glasgow and I think that the current situation is embarrassing.
    We are supposed to be a civilised,cosmopolitan country with our own Parliament etc. But with morons like these who continue to embarrass and shame our country, how are we ever going to promote ourselves as the next best city (to London) in Britain? People around the world will not want to come to a country where religious hatred prevails.
    Further to previous comments, i think that both sets of fans are as bad as the other. I’m a Catholic Celtic fan and I am disappointed when I hear sections of our support screaming pro-IRA chants.
    I don’t think that politics, especially religious politics has a place in football. I think that having a minute’s silence for the Pope was misguided, however I think that it should have been respected by all, regardless of religion as he was a great man.
    If we continue to let a minority of morons dictate the religious atmosphere in the West of Scotland, then we, as a country will become a focus for the rest of the world, but for all the wrong reasons. The fact that Glasgow is an up-and-coming city full of brilliant shops, amazing scenery and fantastic night life will ultimately be overshadowed by our religious intolerance.

  5. Paul says:

    I live in the Westcoast of Scotland and I am a Catholic Rangers supporter, growing up it wasn’t uncommon for people to be in shock to find that i could support rangers AND be a catholic. Both clubs have sets of fans who are sectarian, the clubs are doing their best i believe to try and erradicate it but it is a thing that is drummed into most catholic celtic and protestant rangers’ suporters and will take longer then 1 day to get rid off it. I don’t think it helps when organisations such as the orange lodge have shares in ranger’s and political parties in the republic of ireland are seen alongside celtic supporters on a regulare basis!