Many of the great cities of the world will claim to have a football rivalry. Boca and River Plate in Buenos Aires, Inter and AC in Milan, United and City in Manchester all have a fierce history, but when it comes to a rivalry that goes much deeper than sport, the Glasgow teams of Celtic and Rangers have few comparisons. Known as the Old Firm, the Glasgow football clubs embody bitter issues of politics and religion in their identities.
Soccer and sectarianism
The two clubs represent opposed and conflicting communities in Glasgow. Celtic, formed as a boys club by a Catholic priest, has always been the most popular cultural outlet of Glasgow’s (and Scotland’s) Catholic community. Rangers rooted in the working-class area of Govan is a fiercely Protestant, Loyalist and Unionist club. For decades Rangers even refused to sign a Catholic player. An Old Firm match in Glasgow is always a tense occasion, heavily policed, with players aware that the result means much more than three points lost or gained.
Over 130 years of competition, the rival clubs have enjoyed a strangely similar degree of success, with each team enjoying periods of sustained domination. Celtic have been Scottish champions on 43 occasions; Rangers 54 times. Celtic famously won the European Cup in 1967; Rangers secured the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1972.
A new era
Both clubs have attempted to distance themselves from the sectarian excesses of some supporters in recent years. Supporting one or other club still remains a key element of identity and pride for Glaswegians and Scots at home and abroad. Each club attracts well over 50,000 supporters to home matches
This long-established football rivalry underwent a significant change in the summer of 2012, when the company that owned Rangers was declared insolvent. A new company emerged from the financial wreckage and the club name lives on, but Rangers started the new season in the Third Division, the lowest tier of Scottish football. For the foreseeable future, the fierce football rivalry of Glasgow will be limited to occasional Scottish Cup or League Cup ties.
IMG from: Michael Flippo – Fotolia