Published on 1 August 2013
Celtic Football Club. Open to all. Against all forms of discrimination and renowned for its respect towards people from all races, religions and gender.
Except if you’re a blonde physiotherapist. Then you need your hole, love. Get your tits out.
This was the ‘banter’ dished out to our visitors from Elfsborg on Wednesday night. It seems a juvenile minority of fans just can’t stop themselves screaming sexually explicit statements at women in a football stadium.
It’s a relief to see one of Elfsborg’s doctors tweeted that she enjoyed her experience at Celtic Park – it’s an incredible stadium with incredible fans, and it would have been a great shame if that brief embarrassing display had spoiled it in any way.
Beside me in the Lisbon Lions stand, faces fell among those who didn’t take part in the screams of “YOU NEED YER HOLE” at the sports professionals going about their work. In front of me was a boy of around eight and at the end of my row a girl who couldn’t have been more than six.
It was cringeworthy and extremely uncomfortable to be sitting among men who couldn’t control themselves. You’d have been forgiven for thinking they’d never seen a woman before.
Before the Elfsborg physios took to the pitch, another woman from the Elfsborg staff warmed up not far from my seat along with two of the squad’s players. She was subjected to the same nature of comments from the guys around me. She kept her head turned towards the pitch and never once looked in our fans’ direction as she was goaded.
It was mortifying.
When I came home I switched my computer on and saw a tweet from a Celtic Underground writer who had witnessed the same behaviour. He was appalled by it too. It prompted me to put out a tweet of my own reporting what I had heard.
The response was one of incredible fury that I had dared suggest women may deserve a little more respect – but it wasn’t the first time a tweet about women at Celtic Park had elicited such a response.
In February, after a piece written by the Maley’s Bhoys blog, I responded in a discussion about a stark lack of women anywhere near the Celtic hierarchy. It was a flyaway comment and came from genuine curiosity.
I was met with a hysterical response from Twitter followers. How dare I even raise the question about a woman’s place at Celtic? Obviously, after all these years, there just hadn’t been any women good enough to grace the boardroom.
I guarantee not one of those critics would have accepted that a lack of Catholics at Ibrox in past times was simply because none were good enough.
Nor would they accept racist or sectarian abuse of any player, opposition player, member of staff, fan or visitor to Celtic Park.
So why are women fair game among those who pride themselves on their progressive Celtic values?
In a once male-dominated sport, such treatment of women would once have been commonplace, although the likelihood of finding a woman in a football stadium decades ago would have been minimal to begin with.
Nowadays, women make a substantial part of the Celtic support – as do children – and are an integral part of the Celtic Family.
The majority of fans treat women with the basic respect every human being deserves. They don’t demand they unbutton their cleavage and discuss their sexual habits.
Racism and sectarianism have no place at football grounds – Celtic fans have been very vocal on this subject, particularly about such discrimination at Ibrox –and neither does verbal, sexist abuse aimed at anyone because of their gender.
I’ve had hundreds of tweets in the last 24 hours absolutely incensed that I asked the men at Celtic Park to behave like real Bhoys and behave themselves.
I’m exaggerating, I need to get back in the kitchen, and other predictable and unoriginal stereotypes, have flown in my direction.
But encouragingly, I’ve had a lot of messages and emails from those who agree that discrimination is wrong in all forms at Celtic Park. One man said the ground could have opened up and swallowed him when a rendition of “get your tits out” started in his section. He was attending the game with his granddaughter.
For those who are stamping their feet because people like me want to “take the fun out” of football, I’d suggest therapy for you if indulging in occasional sexual harassment is necessary for you to enjoy yourself.
Celtic Park is a women-friendly place, but a few men in Paradise need to learn manners.