Friday, February 22, 2008

Minor European Football Leagues Unite, You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Chains

Probably like any football club, supporting Celtic has given me equal numbers of profoundly depressing episodes as moments of tingling ecstasy.

Well, I did grow up in the 1990s.

For every Seville, there's a Neuchatel Xamax. For every 6-2 Old Firm win, there's a drunken fan plummeting from the top tier of the North Stand, while on the field Rangers are winning the league and a referee bleeds. For every scarves-aloft, lip-trembling rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone at Parkhead, there's vile, tuneless Provo doggerel being croaked on a grim ferry trip across the water.

Wouldn't have it any other way though. Good for the soul; Kipling and triumph and disaster and all that business.

Rarely though, have I felt the two impostors in the same match.

The 3-2 defeat to Barcelona brings no shame on Gordon Strachan's team. True, many of the players will lament that they did not wear their best suit to the big occasion. But cursory glances at the opposing teamsheets and, indeed, balance sheets mean the harshest cross-examination of Wednesday's proceedings should be avoided.

Back to the agony and the ecstasy. Half time and no Celtic supporter, save the grizzled Lisbon generation, could ever have been happier. Forty-five sensational minutes of football, in which Celtic had played a part - admittedly a supporting one - but nonetheless, the neutrals purred with appreciation. And the impertinence of the two goals: "don't care who you are, lads, this is Parkhead, we'll set aboot ye" (if paraphrasing Rangers-supporting, terrorist-thumping baggage handler John Smeaton is allowed).

But the second half. Oh dear God. It was like coming home to find your wife in bed with Brad Pitt, being forced to watch, and fetching the cuckolder a cold beer afterwards.

Receiving a footballing lesson shouldn't ever be reason enough for the onset of profound depression. Only a game etc. However, during the extended longeurs of Barcelona possession, thoughts turned to the inequitable and constrictive organisation of European football: a feudal oligarchy over which a handful of despots rule, gorging themselves on the fat of the land, while the chieftains on the rocky periphery starve.

What was depressing was not the act of Barcelona's otherwordly dominance, but the system that has allowed it be so. Until Wednesday, we who pledge our support to those teams outwith the opulent palaces of England, Spain and Italy could dream: dream of Porto, 2004; dream of Ajax in '95; dream of the Lisbon Lions.

But the feeling that this club, like many in similar countries around Europe, will never again be able to fulfil its potential is what we were left with. To be so distant from the best, through no fault of our own other than the laws of commerce and geographical accident - that's depressing.

To bring through a player like Aiden McGeady, carefully, attentively cultivating his skills, to find that your opponents have half a dozen similar and better, some even on their bench - that's depressing.

Throughout the last several centuries, in other worlds, at other times, people took to the streets, marched and revolted at being told they could never be the best they could be, that they could never push through glass ceilings, into reserved enclosures.

We all know what happened then. To the barricades!

7 Comments:

Blogger Thom The Thim said...

Ah, Tommy, the bitter sweet joys of the Celtic supporter.

But, what is your plan for storming those barricades?

6:46 p.m.  
Blogger ray said...

No need to be too depressed Barca may have beaten Celtic but they had to wear their very best Sunday clothes to do so. Lets face it they would have beaten any English Premiership side the other night in that devestating mood. Lets hope Strachan plays Donati and moves Robertson into Nakas place in the Nou Camp

7:03 p.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

I'll leave the plan to the smart, suit-wearing types. I'll hand out the pikes and pitchforks.

7:37 p.m.  
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