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Glasgow's Old Firm - Rangers & Celtic

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


This is the story of the two most famous football clubs in Scotland - Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic. The two most decorated clubs in the history of Scottish football have not always been the fiercest of intra-city rivals but over the years that has changed.


Their first match was an unlikely affair against Callander FC at Flesher's Haugh on Glasgow Green. The pitch was open to all-comers, so to claim it for your game you had to make sure you were there first. The home team played in street clothes, with the exception of four "guests" who, as they were members of other clubs, already had their own strips. The ball was second-hand. The result was 0-0, but that didn't matter. Rangers had been born.
The name Rangers was adopted from an English rugby club. By their second fixture - the only other they played that first year - they had donned the light blue. It must have done the trick - Rangers beat Clyde 11-0. Despite this promising start, as every fan knows the official founding of the club did not take place until the following year. Rangers' history is interesting in the fact that they actually almost reached an FA Cup Final in 1887. Yes, the ENGLISH FA Cup. In 1887 they reached the semi-final of that competition only to lose to eventual Cup winners Aston Villa.
Following on the footsteps of Rangers another club was born in Glasgow in 1888. Celtic FC was formed as an Irish Catholic club by an Irish priest named brother Walfred.  As this was a time of mass migration from Ireland the Irish migrants immediately took to supporting Celtic and that Irish connection is still celebrated today. As Celtic FC became a magnet for Irish Catholics.  Rangers began to attract a more predominately Scottish and by nature Protestant support.
Rangers and Celtic are known as the ‘Old Firm’ – this term was coined by a local newspaper who wrote at the time “both sets of players ... got on so well that you would believe that they were Old Firm Friends”.  And so the ‘Old Firm’ which is no one of the oldest rivalries in world football was born.
As of December 17 2006, the two teams had played each other 373 times, with Rangers winning 147 matches, Celtic 134 matches and 92 draws.
The competition between the two clubs has its roots in more than just a simple sporting rivalry. It is infused with a series of complex disputes, sometimes centered on religion (Catholic and Protestant) and Northern Ireland politics. The result has been an enduring enmity between fans that has extended beyond the kind of intra-city footballing rivalry that might be expected in situations where two clubs dominate a country's footballing scene.
That said there have also been many myths about the two clubs including one that Rangers never signed a catholic until the 1980’s when they ‘snatched’ Maurice Johnston, an ex-Celtic player, from under the noses of their rivals.  In fact until that time there had been a large number of players from the Roman Catholic faith who had played for Rangers.  The fact players of both religions played for both clubs did nothing to dampen the spirits of the ‘religiously minded’ supporters of both teams.
A famous and regular ‘Old Firm’ encounter was the traditional New Years Day game which often attracted crowds in excess of 100,000 fans.  In fact at one time Glasgow was the only city in the world with THREE football stadiums with capacities in excess of 100,000.  The New Years Day game was part of the ‘culture’ of industrial Glasgow and often ended with fans clashing in the streets after these games. 
Sadly in 1971 disaster struck at Ibrox, the home of Rangers FC:
It was the afternoon of Saturday January 2 1971.The match was heading for a 0-0 draw when Jimmy Johnstone broke the deadlock to give Celtic the lead in the 89th minute.Then, with just seconds left on the clock, Colin Stein snatched a dramatic equaliser for Rangers. The blue section of the 80,000 all-ticket crowd went wild with delight. The green was thrown into despair.Two goals in a minute. What a finish!
Yet, unseen amid this sea of emotions, a disaster was beginning to unfold at the Rangers end of the ground over on the East terrace at Staircase 13.As the fans swayed away from the heaving mass, some stumbled halfway down the steep steps. Those around didn't see them fall and continued their descent.
Suddenly a tidal wave of fans was engulfed in a terrifying crush. Steel barriers crumpled under the impact.
When the carnage cleared, 66 people had lost their lives and more than 140 lay injured.
Scotland, Glasgow and both sets of fans mourned for the victims and the manager of Rangers, William Waddell vowed that such a tragedy would never happen again.  Out of the disaster was later built one of the most modern stadiums in the UK – it serves as a memory to those who lost their lives on that tragic Saturday.
No two teams have dominated their national championship as much as Rangers and Celtic - between them they have won 90 of the 108 Scottish titles available since 1890.  In fact both clubs have completed ‘nine-in-a-row’ title wins each claiming the domestic championship nine years in succession.
Celtic in 1967 became the first British club to win the European Cup (now the Champions League) and in the same year Rangers lost by a single goal in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup – a trophy they were later to clinch in Barcelona in 1972.
Despite having some world class players over the past 30 odd years – names such as Dalgliesh, Laudrup, Gazza, Larsonn, Souness, Wilkins – neither club has seen a repeat of the European successes of the 60’s and 70’s. 
The rivalry remains to this day and the fans are as passionate as ever!


Famous Rangers SupportersFamous Celtic Supporters
Sir Sean Connery (Actor)
Kenneth Branagh: Actor & Director.
Robert Carlyle: Actor (Train Spotting, The Full Monty, The World Is Not Enough).
Clive Anderson: TV presenter.
Jonathan Watson: Only An Excuse.
Alan McGhee: Creation Records.
Ian McCallum: Stiff Little Fingers guitarist.
Colin Montgomerie: Golfer
Carol Smillie: TV presenter of Changing Rooms.
Nick Nairn: Celebrity cook
Gordon Ramsey: Celebrity chef.
Andy (The Viking) Fordham: Darts player.
Travis: All apart from singer.
Wet Wet Wet: Pop group.
Midge Ure: Ultravox.
Kirsty Young: News presenter.
Gary Player: Golfer.
Arnold Palmer: Golfer.
Andy Cameron: Comedian (alleged)
Bono: Lead singer of U2.
Jim Kerr: Lead singer of Simple Minds.
Billy Connolly: Comedian & actor.
Michael Caton Jones: Film Director (Scandal, Memphis Belle, The Jackal).
Claire Grogan: Actress & singer with 80's group Altered Images.
Fran Healy: Travis lead singer.
Ardal O'Hanlon : Comedian
Alan McManus: Snooker Player.
John Higgins: Snooker Player.
Dominik Diamond: TV/radio presenter.
Steve Collins: Boxer.
Teenage Fanclub: Group.
Primal Scream: Group.
Rod Stewart: Singer.
Martine McCutcheon: Former actress on Eastenders turned pop star.


James Smith, June 2007



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