Furore over Rangers book points to wider debates

In his thoughtful historical excavation of Real Madrid – White Storm, Phil Ball writes of the metaphorical champagne corks flying in the face of Madridistas from the direction of the stands of the Camp Nou in Cataluña in December 1975 – two months after the death of General Franco – in the midst of an almost hysterical celebration of Catalonian nationhood. In many ways such displays of nationality and partisanship will always find a comfortable home in the counter-cultural environment of football grounds, a point which has been reiterated by Dolan Cummings in a recent book. It’s Rangers for Me?, edited by Ronnie Esplin and Professor Graham Walker has been designed to give nascency to wider cultural and political debates on the role of Rangers both historically and contemporarily in Scottish society.

To that end most of the news articles prior to the book’s publication inevitably stoked the fires of controversy by lifting extracts from the volume out of proper context thus giving the heedless element amongst the outer reaches of both the Celtic and Rangers support license to flood internet message boards with tirades that copper fastened many people’s misconceptions about football supporters in general and supporters of the Old Firm in particular.

Football welcomes a wide spectrum of people and inevitably schisms emerge, even among supporters of the same team. And through the twenty-one chapters in It’s Rangers for Me? those anomalies are discharged in an extremely rewarding fashion. It remains to be seen if any of the internet warriors from both sides who feel that they have been misrepresented have actually bothered to read the chapters relevant to the source of their ire.

For football fanatics and non-football fans alike, the message carried in many of the essays in Esplin and Walker’s fascinating book is clear and echo beyond the stands of Ibrox and the sensational headline-making in the papers: while it’s often necessary to take stock, discuss and re-evaluate one’s cultural and political background in a rapidly changing society it does not necessarily mean that vehicles for unique cultural and political expression and belonging need be self-destroyed completely in the face of criticism by others.

Source: Belfast News Letter, October 2007


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