You know that this isn’t your average 3rd division football match when over 30,000 spectators show up in attendance. Proud Rangers FC of Glasgow are currently running away in first place of the Scottish Football League One (how this happens to be the 3rd division is anyone’s guess).
One thing I haven’t done since I arrived in Europe four months ago has been to attend a football match, and for 17 pounds I had a front and center view behind the Copland Road Stand goalmouth. I suppose it was convenient that Ibrox, the home field for Rangers, is so centrally located in Glasgow. But curiosity played a part as well; how bizarre to see the same team that competed only five years ago in the UEFA Cup Final—the 2nd tier tournament for European clubs that don’t qualify for the Champions League—playing in a domestic 3rd division game against lowly Ayr United.
I took my seat just after the first half kicked off and got to talking with the guy next to me, a stocky man in his early 30s with a blue Rangers sweater and sporting a fauxhawk. A native of Glasgow, he has supported Rangers all his life, and even got married at Irbox. I asked him what it was like to be playing a team like Ayr when just a few years ago he and his fellow supporters would flood the continent to watch Rangers stand strong against the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United, and Lyon.
He told me that like the aftermath of a nasty breakup, most Rangers fans were bitter that the Scottish Football Association penalized Rangers for financial improprieties by sending them down to the bottom tier of the league—an exceptionally harsh punishment that had never been meted out before, despite Rangers being one of many Scottish clubs with their books way out of whack. The defiant swagger that has always characterized this exceptionally working class, Royalist fan base still remains, but there seems to be an added twist of raw fury that has worked its way into Ibrox.
The most evident sign of discontent were the “Sack the Board” protests that happened, one in each half. Rangers were founded in 1872, and so in the 18th and 72nd minutes red sheets of paper with “Sack the Board” written on them were raised, and Ibrox echoed with the bellows of thousands protesting the perceived mis-management of the club. It didn’t seem to have an impact on the players themselves; Rangers won comfortably by a score of 3-0. It is not uncommon for a club of Rangers’ magnitude to stand for something more than a football team—consider that Barcelona’s motto is “Mes Que Un Club” (More Than a Club)—and in this case, I was not surprised to witness most of the ground standing at the end of the match and singing “God Save the Queen.” Nor was I surprised to hear that the man sitting next to me supports the English national team, not the Scottish one. And although I didn’t ask, I have a feeling that when the Scottish referendum for independence takes place next year, most of the people at Ibrox will probably not be voting yes.
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