I see our separated brethren are up in arms because some of our MSPs are of the opinion that footballers that genuflect on the football field could be guilty of committing a sectarian act. Gosh, apart from the fact that it is a pretty novel situation here in Scotland to find a politician who has the integrity and mettle to actually find fault with anything to do with the Church of Rome. The fact is our MSPs might just have called this one correctly. Now, before we go any further I'll put my cards on the table and state quite openly that I am not the RC Church's biggest admirer. Be that as it may, that statement doesn't mean I believe RCs should not be allowed to practice their faith. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
It doesn't mean either that I get up in arms when I see sportsmen and women the world over blessing themselves before, during and after a sporting event. I personally just find it all rather silly and amusing.
As we've asked before. What does God do in the penalty situation when both kicker and goalkeeper do the hand jive? What devout Catholic does he keep happy? I tell you, it makes me glad I flunked my omnipotence O Grade exam and no mistake.
It's not often I agreed with the late Cardinal Winning on anything, but I am reminded of his gentle scolding of this particular act after Tommy Burns' spectacular hand show after scoring the penalty that eliminated Motherwell from the League Cup semi final shoot out in September 1986. Players who do this are 'prostituting their faith' he said.
As I said earlier, it doesn't bother me one little bit that RC footballers bless themselves in the belief that this simple little gesture, which could be construed as the spiritual substitute for Nandrolone is going to help lift their game. No, what I object to, especially here in Scotland is the hypocrisy of the act. And where you get hypocrisy in the sporting world, Celticfootballclub is going to be following right behind.
The biggest culprit in the hand jive hypocrisy stakes in my time watching the game has got to be Paddy (the maddy) Bonner. The fact is, he didn't call on God to help protect his goal every, single time he faced a penalty. He didn't do it up at Brechin and Forfar on a Tuesday or a Wednesday night in the League Cup. He didn't do it at Love St, Pittodrie, and Tannadice or in Edinburgh down through the years in the Premier League. No, more often than not, God was only called upon to help domestically when Bonner was facing a Rangers penalty. And we all know why that is don't we boys and girls?
The only time I can remember Bonner blessing himself in a game outwith the Old Firm fixture was probably the most high profile game he ever played in. I refer of course to the Bulgaria v Ireland match at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. And what a hoot that was. If you ever get a chance to watch the re run of that shoot out, do so. For the first five Bulgarian penalties, Bonner does the Ace, King, Queen and you've guessed it. The Bulgarians net every one of them. In the sudden death, he forgets to bless himself and - you've guessed it - he makes the save that wins the tie. There's a lesson for everyone in there somewhere!
We have also been treated to Peter Grant, the Mad Monk himself, and his personal slant on Christianity. His actions on the afternoon of Saturday, October 17th 1987 stand out in bold relief as a testament to why our MSPs might just have stumbled upon the truth regards genuflection and sectarianism. You only need to look at his face as he kneels down at the Celtic end after Butcher's own goal. Contorted in a mixture of madness meets religious mania, Grant's actions have nothing to do with sporting joy and everything to do with hate. Oh, and for the record, Grant has since apologised for his actions that day. Proof positive (not that we need any) that he did mean to go out of his way that day to cause offence.
We don't need to constantly harp back to the past either to look at the hypocrisy of this whole 'Bless me Father' stuff. Mark Viduka is another who offers us another rare, wee, glimpse into this peculiar and almost certainly unique Oh-I'm-a-Celt-I-guess-I-must-be-a-devout-Catholic state of psychosis.
Now plying his trade down in Yorkshire, Viduka and his Leeds Utd team-mates have just come through a very, barren spell. Viduka scored recently in an important game during the festive period. Yet his goal scoring celebrations (which were caught fully by the TV cameras) strangely enough did not include the up, down, sidey thing. But then again they mostly never do. He didn't do it after every goal scored for Zagreb. He doesn't do it after every goal scored for his country. He doesn't do it at Leeds. In fact he didn't do it on a regular basis at Torbett Towers.
But he did do it on one very high profile occasion. And guess who the opposition was on the 27th December 1999?
Pathetically, but oh so predictably, the RC Church here in Scotland is aghast that anyone could have the temerity to find fault with the actions of any of their number. But then again, what else should we expect from people who view wanting to TALK about Catholic schools as akin to a statement made back in the 1920s by a Church of Scotland spokesman about repatriating the Irish?
The fact is, you simply cannot have reasonable debate with such a close and narrow-minded mentality. It's funny mind you that the RC Church who will talk all day about the colour of Rangers' football tops. Whose spokesmen can lend themselves to crap spouted by the likes of Fernando Ricksen, don't want to know, when it is the actions and behaviour of its own followers that is put under scrutiny?
Of course, in a normal, civilised country, talk of people wearing their religious heart, sacred or otherwise, on their sleeves as being a sign of sectarianism would be laughed out of court. But we don't live in a normal country, we live in 21st Century Scotland. A land where you are labelled as a bigot if you own, or have worn an Orange coloured football top to a Cup final. A befuddled wee country where singing the words, 'if we go to Dublin' has in the eyes and ears of the Celtic minded sinister connotations. What I like most of all about this particular wee avenue off Sectarianism Main St, is that it is the intolerance of RC bigots themselves that has forced this particular part of the debate. Not so much hoisted by their own petard, but their own bad habits.
The fact is, it is RCs who are offended by the colour orange. It is the preposterously self-acclaimed bhoys against bigotry who get upset by invisible flutes. So much so that 126 of these non-sectarian charmers issued Gazza with death threats after a nano second of air flute at the cesspit on Jan 2nd 1998. That our journalists have never picked up on the irony of non bigots issuing death threats because of religion tells you everything you need to know about their take on the issue. Of course maybe they were too engrossed in saving the Ulster Peace Process, to have noticed the whole stinking, foetid hypocrisy, which is all too regularly on show at CP.
So, in summing up I would say that in normal times, in an ordinary country, people genuflecting would not be considered as a sectarian or religiously bigoted act. But if the colour orange, especially when connected to Rangers FC, can be construed as religious bigotry? If 0.25 of a second of invisible flute playing can be equated with bringing down a peace process? Then why should blessing yourself, one time against one particular team be considered any differently?
Yours in football,
The Govanhill Gub