Rangers’ first league title in ten years brought thousands of Rangers fans onto the street.
The subway screeched to a halt, and the location signs came into view; the word "Ibrox" stood boldly written in black. I had arrived, although I didn’t need the signs to tell me that. Mask firmly on and hood up, I left the relative safety of the subway carriage and emerged onto the platform. The noise of what felt like a hundred thousand Rangers fans erupted as I left the carriage. The air was thick with the smell of flare residue that had drifted down from the Louden Tavern above. Everywhere I looked was swarmed with union flags or creative arrangements of red, white, and blue. I joined the march up the stairs, feeling nervous, not knowing what to expect. As we spilt out onto the street, the true size of the crowd became apparent; we were merely a river joining what felt like an ocean of supporters. It was a chaotic, yet jovial sight, made up of the high visibility jackets of the police, people singing and dancing, and, of course, Buckfast bottles. It had been a long wait for these diehard fans, 10 years of anguish allowing the frustration and anger to build, and today was the day that marked the end of that painful waiting game. With a triumphant 4-0 win over the fourth placed Aberdeen side, the league had drawn to an end, and it was time for the victorious Rangers side to lift the trophy.
It is somewhat of a cliche to say that the club goes beyond football; however, it is simply true. The devotion of all those supporting the club was evidently shown by the tattoos they wore proudly sporting the club’s badge or the dyed hair in the club’s colours. It felt like a religious gathering rather than one dedicated to a football club. The dancing and chanting felt good-natured at first, and I settled into the organized chaos. Without notice or warning, we began to move as a group; I blended into the crowd, furiously tapping away at my phone, making notes of the events unfolding. The fans involved in the march ranged from families and their children to the stereotypical young men that could be described as "football casuals". The chanting really took hold of everyone when the march began, starting off with generic subjects like the club’s success. However, as the march progressed and more people joined, the atmosphere changed with the start of sectarian chants that have been all too acquainted with Scottish football for the last hundred plus years. I witnessed firsthand how this hatred is passed through generations, as a small boy and girl accompanying presumably their father chanted sectarian abuse. It is worth mentioning this was a minority of fans, yet sadly those that sing the loudest capture the attention of onlookers and the media at any event. Every so often, the crowd would come to a halt; around the third time this happened, I decided to climb a nearby wall to gain a better vantage point, and it was then I was hit with the scale of the gathering. A crowd lay before me that stretched all the way down the street further than the eye could see. I struggled to push the Covid-19 pandemic and risk from my mind and felt a sense of dread of what these celebrations could mean for the city and its battle with Covid-19.
Once I finished taking photos, I jumped down from the wall, and after I warned two older men, who were wearing balaclavas, they were currently standing in someone’s urine, I received a firm hand on my right shoulder. I turned to greet the person who had grabbed me; a young man in his early 20’s holding what looked like a large metal box stood in front of me. I struggled to make out fully what his intentions were, so I took a step back, but through the noise of the crowd and the slurring of his words, I could tell he was politely and eloquently requesting if I could move back. Safe to say he nor his friends had to ask me twice. I began to move back just as the whistle of a firework shot past my head into the air and exploded to the thunderous applause of the crowd. I ran along with several others to safety, fleeing the projectiles. I felt like I was in an urban warzone as I picked the debris from my hair. These scenes felt like they belonged in a war-torn country or riot, not central Glasgow. The crowd resumed their march to George Square. I made an effort to remain somewhat at the back of the crowd to try and maintain some sort of distance. This meant, however, I had to navigate through the remnants of the crowd that continued in front. Subsequently, this meant I stepped in broken glass and flare cartridges, which littered the street from right to left. Due to this, I fell somewhat behind from the main march; however, as luck would have it, this was for the best. I discovered a fairly large fire brewing along the side of the road in an area full of bushes and trees; it felt surreal. I immediately rang the fire service and told a police officer and left it in their capable hands. This only heightened my feeling of unease.
For the most part, most fans were there with good intentions; however, there was undoubtedly a significant minority that seized the opportunity to drink, take drugs, and use the event as an excuse for pursuing anti-social behaviour. This was later proved by the scenes at George Square, which served as an embarrassment to the club and the fans who had remained peaceful. Covid-19 grows in the south side and Glasgow as a whole, and as a result of the march, the government is now urging people to get tested immediately, and I hope they do for their own sake and the sake of others. After all, the only way they and all lovers of football will push through the turnstiles and take their seats on the cold plastic chairs of their football stadiums again is with the end of this pandemic. I saw the best and the worst of the people of Glasgow on that day. Whether it was those helping pick up small children that had fallen or those stupidly launching flares at others. One thing is certain; I will not forget those scenes any time soon. My understanding of the passion supporters have for their club, and the game of football has been forever re-defined.
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