Rangers Football Club played it’s first match in May 1872; a friendly tie with Callander F.C, which ended 0-0. Yesterday, Rangers Football Club took part in what may be one of their final matches; a friendly tie in Belfast, against Linfield F.C., which ended 2-0 to the visitors. The match, arranged to raise funds for the Glasgow club, was attended by approximately 7,000 spectators. No one can criticise either club in this regard, and I’m sure supporters of both sides enjoyed the match, if not the poor weather it was played in.
However, I am afraid this article will not focus on the match itself, which was won thanks to goals from Alejandro Bedoya and Barry McKay, for anyone who happens to be interested. Before the match, the fans inside Windsor Park were treated to a parade from the Millar Memorial Flute Band (no, not Bill Millar).
On their website (www.mmfb.co.uk), the band describe part of their long history as follows, “In 1976 the County Grand Lodge of Belfast invited the band to lead the Belfast ‘Twelfth’ procession & we have been leading the ‘Twelfth’ every year since.”
The schedule of upcoming events posted on the same website also indicates that the band will be taking part in both of the main “Orange Walks” of the calendar year, in both Glasgow and Belfast, on the 7th and 12th of July respectively.
For those of you who may be interested, here’s a video of the band in action on a previous trip to Glasgow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rpv0mop8Lu4
And now, we come to the crux of the matter. Granted, this is not the biggest story surrounding Rangers at the moment, but while today you will be able to pick up a newspaper and read of Rangers fundraising match being a great success, I highly doubt there will be any critical mention of this band’s performance inside the stadium.
I’m sure Rangers would say, if asked, that the decision to ask the band to perform at Windsor Park yesterday afternoon was that of the home club Linfield, and it had nothing to do with them. This is a valid point, but it certainly doesn’t reflect well on Rangers F.C., and this is not the first time this has happened.
Can you imagine the media uproar that would come with, for argument’s sake, a republican flute band performing at one of Celtic’s friendly matches, whether it was in the north of Ireland, the Republic itself, or anywhere else on the globe?
Celtic Football Club and it’s supporters would be branded as “bigoted” and “narrow minded” and the event would be lambasted by an almost endless stream of Scottish journalists. If we look at a fairly recent example, the Celtic support were criticised on national television during the Scottish Cup Final in 2011 for “sectarian singing”. Allegedly, these comments referred to the singing of “The Boys of the Old Brigade” by a small number of supporters (so few I couldn’t hear it, and I was at the game).
Now, without opening up a debate about whether or not that song is sectarian and/or offensive, it is interesting to note how it was criticised so openly, whilst only months before, after tens of thousands of Rangers supporters had sang “The Famine Song” (amongst others on their open minded “list of classics” they seem to love so) at the League Cup Final, their support was praised by the Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, as he referred to their “positive example set inside the ground”, and hoped “it would be replicated outside it over the course of the evening and beyond.” However, I digress.
The flutes were out in force pre-match at Windsor Park . The point is that whilst Celtic Football Club and it’s supporters have raised money to bring a group of Thai children half way around the globe to both see the team they adore and sing for the fans of the club at Celtic Park, Rangers Football Club and it’s supporters have arranged and attended a charity tie where the pre-match entertainment was a “Loyalist Flute Band”.
This is yet another example of the “open mindedness” that still blights Rangers F.C. and large sections of it’s support, and it once again reinforces the fact that there is no such thing as the “Old Firm”, because the two clubs and sets of supporters are simply not “just as bad as each other”, no matter what sections of the mainstream media may tell you.