“We’re Scotland’s shame but so are you” | Whataboutery in Scottish football

This article is from the 8th edition of The Cynical, our free online magazine.



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In the inherently tribal environment of football debate, especially ones conducted anonymously on social media,  the countering of accusations with accusations – whataboutery – is rife, with insults between accounts and rival fans are traded constantly. Many would reasonably argue that football discussion on social media is by by nature a cesspool, an endless void of toxic behaviour and to attempt any sort of moralistic take on it in general – never mind when it involves Celtic and Rangers – is pissing into the wind.
Let’s piss onwards, shall we?

Whilst we can (and probably will for all time) split hairs over what is offensive and what qualifies as line-crossing behaviour at football, white-on-black racism is something that (hopefully) most reasonable individuals could agree is abhorrent, and utterly unacceptable in any context. The ridiculousness of whataboutery can be perfectly demonstrated through the two most frequently cited incidents of racism in Scottish football this decade.

On February 20, 2011, during Celtic’s 3-0 victory over Rangers, a Celtic fan made monkey gestures at Rangers forward El Hadji Diouf whilst he took a corner. Similarly, during the celebrations of Celtic’s opener in their 5-1 win at Ibrox on April 29, 2017, a Rangers fan made a monkey gesture at goalscorer Scott Sinclair. These two isolated incidents are often used in response to one another, the most frequently used incidents of whataboutery between the respective fanbases.

Diouf’s case often elicits the often used phrase of ‘it’s not an excuse, but…’ with a lot of mitigating of the incident from Celtic fans have been done by producing any number of stories from his playing career to show that he is/was a thoroughly unpleasant individual with a history of misdemeanours. We still seem in a position to have to reiterate that whatever amount of abuse he might deserves on account of his behaviour through is career, racial abuse is only critical of his ethnicity, not his character. To suggest that he in any way deserved to be racially abused is a completely irredeemable sentiment.

To boil these two appalling incidents down into petty social media fodder is reprehensible, and therein lies the critical issue with this brand of whataboutery; the mutation of serious issues into a feedback loop of pointless hypocritical mudslinging.

In the case of Scottish football, acts like Sinclair’s racial abuse from opposition fans are wildly shared and shamed on social media and other venues, whilst similar behaviour like the racial abuse of Diouf from one’s club’s own fans are ignored, or worse, actively excused. Of course, one needs not specifically acknowledge one incident to merely condemn another, but to consistently show no interest in self-policing is to admit to a comparatively low regard for the actual issues at hand, which are often very serious and highly sensitive, such as the accusations of child abuse by employees of both clubs. Instead, such issues which should be way above football tribalism, is used as a very inappropriate stick to slander the opposite set of fans with.

To this end, it isn’t too far a stretch to suggest that the average fan of each respective club has little experience of direct skin colour-based prejudice simply because that average fan is white and from the British Isles. Not to discount for the obvious outliers within sectarian hatred and the prevalence of anti-Irish racism that still infuriatingly exists in Scotland today, there are a significant body of fans who have little personal understanding of the damage both casual racial prejudice and its trivialisation can have.

The utterly heinous racism Mark Walters faced on multiple occasions in Scottish football remains a stain on our game, and one that much like the aforementioned cases of Diouf and Sinclair is often reduced to a catchall rebound to any criticism levied at, in this case, specific Rangers fans.

This isn’t to say that we should not discuss these incidents when they occur. It would have been encouraging to see Celtic in particular take the initiative on the well-publicised 30th anniversary of Walters’ Rangers debut, denouncing the behaviour of our “fans” as not just a sign of those times, but the ugly elephant in the room of our modern history. It’s easy to fly the “A Club Open to All” flag when the abused is one of our own, less so when one (or in the case of Walters, several) of our own have disgraced us.

And thus, there is the issue of collective responsibility. To what end do a fanbase own and answer for the behaviour of fans as individuals? Quite simply, individual fans will speak for the majority, if that majority is silent, and if they are allowed to.

If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” is a fallacy overused to the point of farce, but if we aren’t willing to self-police our collective fanbases, then frankly, it’s a difficult conclusion to avoid. Knuckledraggers like the one that racially abused Diouf must not be allowed to speak and act on behalf of the rest of the support.

The much-heralded  tag of “best fans in the world” is admittedly more than a little tenuous, and should not be one that represents a ceiling. Even if that were to be a distinction the Celtic fanbase merits, we should always implore the club and each other to improve. If we refuse to call out those who disgrace us and resort to whataboutery, the latter is made far more drawn out and difficult.

We’re Scotland’s shame but so are you” is hardly an argument we should be willing to make.


This article is from the 8th edition of The Cynical, our free online magazine.



EPUB FORMAT  (great for iBooks and other e-readers)



90 Minute Cynic is a football website covering the important issues in the modern game. We follow European football with a distinct focus on the Scottish & English Premier Leagues. As part of the Hail Hail Media network, we cover Glasgow Celtic on our very popular podcast. We also seek out interesting and funny stories from all corners of the globe, bringing an analytical yet enjoyable spin on football podcasting.

'“We’re Scotland’s shame but so are you” | Whataboutery in Scottish football' have 1 comment

  1. October 2, 2018 @ 7:55 pm Al

    Excellent article that both Rangers and Celtic fans should read but more importantly note to stop the tit for tat crap and throughout racism


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