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A Celebration and a Resource
for the Irish Pub Community

The Footie File

By David McBride

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Celtic Football Club
Celtic Football Club

When President Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate and spoke those now iconic words, no one really knew what would happen if he actually got what he was asking for.  For decades, the United States and the Soviet Union existed inside a world of rivals.  Their geopolitical dual defined each nation politically, economically and culturally.  Without that rivalry, no one knew what the world would look like.

As the perceived victors of the cold war, the United States stood alone as the world’s superpower with a long list of unanswerable questions.  Would some other nation fill the void left by the USSR?  What would the impact be on the American economy?  Without a common enemy, would the USA be able to maintain the focus that lead them to victory in the Cold War?  And for the Russians, the world was even more uncertain.  A lack of leadership, an economy on the brink, and the idea of drawing a new map were just a few of the obstacles facing them.  And this was happening while a nervous world of nations, all with some sort of skin in the game, watched and braced for the consequences.

Throughout history, we see rivals defined by the relationship to each other more so than by themselves individually.  And we also find this throughout the sporting world.  And no where more so than in Glasgow, where the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers has been the benchmark. 

No one, not players, executives, coaches nor supporters would ever try to argue that the Old Firm’s rivalry was not economically beneficial for all involved.  Despite all the terrible off-the-field issues that have resulted over the years from this heated and emotional feud, the battle between Celtic and Rangers has always been the centerpiece of Scottish football, and an undoubted cash cow for the league at large.  But all of that is over now, and there is one thing you can be sure of, it will never be the same again.

Like the United States in the autumn of 1989, Celtic now peers into a future somewhat devoid of direction, but full of responsibility.  They stand alone as Scotland’s only truly big club, and are therefore now the stewards for a league full of nervous boardrooms and supporters fearing the worst, many of whom they have hitherto had an often tenuous relationship.  In the short-term Celtic will reap the rewards and dominate the landscape.  There is little anyone can do about that, but Celtic must also understand the responsibilities that comes with.

Throughout this ordeal, the Celtic hierarchy have remained largely, and in my opinion intelligently, silent.  They have not emerged as some sort of conquerers, standing on a smoking battlefield holding their flag aloft and posing for photos.  If they had, the situation would almost certainly have been different.  Their silence had a similar effect as Ronald Reagan’s words, helping to clear the way for the great collapse.  But unlike Reagan, it would be hard to believe a single person at Celtic would be completely certain that the spectacular fall of their great enemy is a good thing.  The devil you know, I suppose...

For Rangers and their supporters, or at least what’s left of Rangers, the future is perilously uncertain.  The club may never again reach the power it once wielded, and it can easily be a generation before they once again compete against their Glasgow rivals for a trophy.  But with all that being said, they now have a clean slate, a road with no obstacles.  Their mistakes may haunt them, and deservedly so.  But they have been given the opportunity to turn the page a start anew. 

Like characters in a political thriller, some of the power brokers in Scottish Football clung desperately to the current state of affairs.  But now they and everyone else have to find a way to live and prosper in their own version of a post-Cold War era.  What’s done is done, and nothing can change that now.  The fallout will continue, and as much as it would be nice to put this behind us and move on, it is important that the lessons are learned.  After all is said and done, I truly believe an uncertain future is a far better place than a corrupt status quo.

In just over a week the whistle will blow, the ball will roll and the stadiums will sing again.  Hopefully the game can heal the wounds.


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