Suppose you’re a devout religious believer and an athlete. Would you put on a religious show during a match with full knowledge that such a display could quite possibly lead to a violent clash up in the stands? Especially if both your teams had been involved in a summit to try and turn the tide of sectarianism?
That’s what happened at a soccer game in Scotland between the Celts and the Rangers. The goalkeeper for the Celts Artur Boruc did not, as reported by some, make a single act of religoius devotion. He put on a show which was largely aimed at the Protestant fans of the Rangers which riled them up so much that the police had to intervene to keep things from getting really ugly. When it was all over and done with Boruc was admonished by the Scottish authorities for his behaviour and rightly so.
Catholic leaders though have chosen to paint Boruc as an innocent victim who merely expressed his religious devotion as had been done in various soccer matches throughout Europe. They’ve conveniently forgotten that sectarianism runs deep in Scottish society and that clashes between the two clubs, known collectively as the Old Firm, are largely religoius in nature with the Celtics being the “Catholic Club” and the Rangers the “Protestant Club”. In many senses the clashes are tribal in nature.
The violence has not been limited to the playing field. In 1995 a 16-year old Celtic fan by the name of Mark Scott was stabbed to death by a Ranger fan in Glascow while walking home from a match through a Protestant area with other fans. Scottish ministers have had to address sectarian violence as it resolves around soccer as have England and Wales. Both of the involved clubs have participated in various activities to try to stem the violence the latest of them being just a few days before the game in which Boruc put on his show.
In short, the Catholic leaderships refusal to see the true nature of Boruc’s behaviour and it’s willful downplaying of the sectarian violence that such behaviour can produce shows a complete disregard for the safety of all of Scotland’s soccer plays and fans most of which are not frothing at the mouth sectarian lunatics who’d kill a kid for wearing a jersey. Boruc deserved what he got and the Church owes all of Scotland an apology for trying to make itself the victim in this. The church would do much better to admonish any Catholic footballer that behaves as Boruc did given the full history of the situation.