May 12th, 2011
07:16 PM ET

Lennon intimidation has no place in soccer

Neil Lennon, the manager of Celtic Football Club, was hit by a fan from the opposition in a recent SPL game.
Neil Lennon, the manager of Celtic Football Club, was hit by a fan from the opposition in a recent SPL game.

The alleged assault on Celtic manager Neil Lennon, during a 3-0 victory over Scottish Premier League rivals Heart of Midlothian on Wednesday, has led to calls for change in a nation so proud of its football heritage.

European champions in 1967 and one of the two giant clubs of the Glasgow "Old Firm" alongside Rangers, Celtic are just one point from the top of the league with one game left to play. But the climax of what will surely be a dramatic end to the season, as Celtic chase their arch-rivals, has been overshadowed by unsavoury scenes.

Lennon's club issued a statement on Thursday asking for Scottish society as a whole to address "fundamental and serious issues" after confirming that another package containing ammunition had been sent to the team's home ground and removed by police. After all, it is not the first time that Lennon has been subjected to such action.

In January, another package containing bullets addressed to Lennon was intercepted in Northern Ireland. This was followed in March by what police deemed as two "viable parcel bombs" being sent to the soccer coach which were also stopped before reaching their destination.

This was at a time when Celtic confirmed their manager was under 24-hour security surveillance because of the perceived threat. Football is a game that stirs the souls of many fans around the world, but rarely does it escalate to such high stakes. And more the pity that it has now.

It is fair to say that Scotland and Glasgow have had a history of sectarian strife. The friction between Celtic - a club traditionally aligned with Catholic and Irish sentiment - and Rangers, a side proud of their Protestant and British heritage, is one that is as partisan as as it is passionate.

It is this tribalism that makes the Glasgow derby one of the most exciting atmospheres in world club football but it is also the same schism that, at its extremes, has led to scenes of violence and severe tension.

And tensions have certainly raised in recent times. European football's governing body UEFA fined Rangers $118,000 in April for the sectarian singing of its fans during a clash with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven and imposed a ticket-sale ban for one match.

The 39-year-old Lennon is certainly a fiery character who, without the backdrop of the historical rivalry between Rangers and Celtic, is more than capable of courting controversy.

Lennon angered many Rangers fans earlier this season when he gestured in a mocking fashion towards supporters as a response after Celtic's 0-0 draw at Ibrox.

Before the game with Hearts, Lennon had also been keen to show his will was unbowed in the face of recent provocation. He told reporters: “The fact that I walk out on to a football pitch seems to provoke a lot of people. Just my very presence – so I don’t have to do a lot to get the juices flowing.” How right he proved to be.

Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho is controversial too, but he does not need security guards to protect him against death threats. The fact remains that whatever the historical context of Scottish football, however great the rivalry between two very tribal clubs and no matter how provocative a character Lennon maybe - no coach should have to walk onto a pitch fearing for his life and well-being.

Many would forgive Lennon if he walked away to escape the firing line, but surely football's governing bodies and politicians could do more to ensure that football is played in an environment where a man who is passionate about the game can declare his religion and continue to work without fear of reprisal.

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soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. The Black Knight

    A decent report on a shocking and horrific situation for anyone to be caught up in!

    The real truth is that whilst much has been done by Rangers Football Club to rid themselves of their sectarian problem the problem lies much deeper.

    It is the anti catholic anti Irish sentiment that is held in this country that is dragging us into a situation much aligned to that which happened in the north of Ireland.

    Most if not all of my friends that are Celtic supporters are non catholic or Protestant. So the belief that there is a problem with religion in football, to my mind, is firmly in one direction.

    WE ARE CELTIC! WE ARE WITH NEIL LENNON.

    HE WILL NEVER WALK ALONE!

    May 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  2. Fifer

    Well done. You have a better grasp on how bad things are in Scotland than some Scottish TV and Radio pundits who are still in denial and wish to keep the dark issues in Scottish society under the carpet.

    May 12, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Reply
  3. kenny

    'Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho is controversial too, but he does not need security guards to protect him against death threats.'

    Not so.

    http://uk.soccerway.com/news/2011/March/06/mourinho-unfazed-by-stabbing-attempt/

    May 12, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  4. trueblue

    what else do you expect from this moron he courts trouble cause he sits there like a spoiled child and makes stupid gestures to the crowd always said this guys an accident waiting to happen after all the bomb scares thinkhe would try act sensible but its well beyond him

    May 12, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  5. JayhawkCSC

    "Lennon angered many Rangers fans earlier this season when he gestured in a mocking fashion towards supporters as a response after Celtic's 0-0 draw at Ibrox."

    I actually take exception to this description of events. My view is that Neil Lennon was drawing attention to the fact that a large portion of the Rangers support was chanting "How does it feel to live in fear?", not mocking them. This chorus of horrible chant came fresh on the heels of the discovery of the mail bombs.

    May 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Reply
  6. trueblue

    fact is jay any manager mocking other teams fans is asking for bother how many managers have u seen do that over the yrs lennons just an idiot

    May 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  7. brendan

    trueblue you are part of the problem. Neil Lennon has done nothing wrong. He shouldn't have to change a thing about himself. Plenty of other sports figures make gestures to crowds and nothing happens to them. Ever met Neil Lennon? A more intelligent, kind, and honest guy you will never find. All fault and all blame lies with the bigots, racists, and idiots who hate him because of his religion, race, and place of occupation. With your words you are supporting and apologizing for bigots and racists. Scotland is populated by bigots and racists who hate Catholics and the Irish. Very simple.

    May 12, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Reply
  8. Sachiko

    This accident reminds me of tennis star Monica Celes being attacked during a match by a fan of Graf. Celes injured, then came back later but had struggled with PTSD, that made her brilliance cut short, ironically as the criminal's wish. There are stupid people everywhere who do whatever it takes to gratify themselves.

    May 12, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Reply
  9. Ethel Cardew

    Lennon is a baby, who cant handle it. FACT!

    May 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Reply
  10. brendan

    trueblue

    Why can't you be decent and do the dignified thing and say that this hate campaign against Neil Lennon that has been undertaken for over a decade is wrong? Simple. Neil Lennon does not bring it upon himself; that is a bigot's logic, a mealy mouth cowardly excuse. Act with some dignity and condemn the attacks, before an innocent man is killed.

    May 12, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  11. G-Man

    trueblue,
    Away and buy a full stop or a capital letter before you try to pontificate to anyone.... nae pun intended.
    The issue is not about what the away fans were chanting last night. Lets stick to the point on the article, eh?

    May 12, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Reply
  12. Maeve

    trueblue – having read your posts, I believe the expression I'm looking for is QED. Though as that's Latin, and probably too Papist for you, you'll probably not understand. So let's just say you have proved to be a marvellous exemplar of the problems described in this article. And you can't even see it.

    May 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  13. celtic1888

    many people in scotland are trying to portray Lennon as someone who brings it on himself, when you ask them why 2 celtic players, Northern Irish catholics like Lennon received bullets in the post, why celtics lawyer, a celtic supporting catholic, a female politician, again a celtic supporting catholic, a high profile catholic clergyman were sent BOMBS in the post that could easily have killed or maimed them and others who handled them when delivering them, it doesn't make any sense.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Reply
  14. kenny

    trueblue – i realise that you did not ask me the question but will give a view in any case.

    I did not hear any ira songs sung by celtic fans last night; presumably because i did not see all of the coverage. my personal opinion is that they are innapropriate at any occasion. however you should ask yourself if 'whataboutery' is an effective and cogent argument. walter smith was not assaulted last night, ally mccoist was not assaulted last night. rangers, (and to a lesser extent celtic), fans are often quoted as saying that 'it's just banter' or as sir david murray put it, 'the action of 90 minute bigots' (or something very similar). last night went way beyond that and you know it, yet none of us should be surprised.

    as for neil lennon being a moron, might i suggest that you actually listen to HIM rather than what he is reported to have said in the gutter press. his 'stupid gestures to the crowd' may have been just that in your eyes but he was somewhat provoked. what you are advocating is a society where a person can be the subject of actual and threatened assaults, consequent mass goading and yet be castigated for having the strength of character to stand up for themself.

    perhaps you already knew that.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Reply
  15. Bohannon 67

    Trueblue, it's bigots like you that are Scotland's shame, you don't get it at all do you? No this is my country's dirty little secret, anti Irish racism and anti Catholic bigotry.
    Until the Scottish Politicians get real with this issue then the Catholics in this country will always be under threat. Not totally convinced they will after the initial PR thing at the moment and normal condemnation blustering given when the incumbant Government came in they immediately axed the previous Labour regimes investigation into Racism and Sectarianism in Scottish society.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Reply
  16. Danny

    WE ARE ALL NEIL LENNON !!

    May 12, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Reply
  17. Even if you win you will never be better!!!

    All you people who think Neil Lennon brings this on himself because of the way he acts are probably the same ones who would say that a female 'deserved it', because she was wearing a short skirt. The ONLY ones to blame here are the people who perpetuate the hatred of Neil Lennon and who have built him into some anti-christ. I really hope Celtic get out of this country and play somewhere that is devoid of the anti-catholic, Irish and Celtic sentiment. As for you trueblue you represent your club and their fans very well. Your statements and comments really are limited. What happened to evolution?

    GOD BLESS YOU NEIL.

    THE CELTIC FAMILY STAND AS ONE

    May 13, 2011 at 12:14 am | Reply
  18. Iain

    "My view is that Neil Lennon was drawing attention to the fact that a large portion of the Rangers support was chanting "How does it feel to live in fear?", not mocking them. "

    You would think Sellick fans would have enouigh real, actual events to speak about without making things up as well.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:43 am | Reply
  19. Mike

    trueblue is right. This is sport and sport is a life and death matter. All those times he's been called bad names or heard mean-spirited songs just because of the club he supports, those were word bullets, and as we have all learned on the playground and on the pitch

    May 13, 2011 at 1:11 am | Reply
  20. Dulcimer172

    Doesn't shame soccer. It tells everyone, what many already knew about a huge group of Glaswegians.

    I won't even comment on this latest issue. Because it's just one of so many between 2 factions, going back forever.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:46 am | Reply
  21. Angus Hogg

    I am a Glaswegian who was born into a Protestant tradition. My best friends growing up in Glasgow were Irish Catholics. My friends' greatest gift to me was showing me from a young age that Roman Catholics were good people. I knew nothing of religion at that age but became a lifelong Celtic supporter through them. When exposed to widespread bigotry in later years I somehow realised that it was just not true due because I knew real Catholic people who were great folk. I became a Christian in later years and became aware very quickly that 'Protestantism' and Christianity had little in common. The tragedy of the Neil Lennon saga is that so many people in Scotland seem to have genuine difficulty in knowing what all the fuss is about. To quote a famous song, 'Centuries of hatred have ears that do not hear. An eye for an eye was all that filled their minds – then another eye for another eye till everyone is blind'.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:44 am | Reply
  22. James Sankey

    Making up something in your head doesn't make it true so i'll give you a couple of facts to help you with your ridiculous kkk fantasy(though i bet you wish it was true dont you).
    1 First black player to play for either side played for Rangers(Mark Walters)on his first appearance at Celtic Park bananas were thrown onto the field and he was subjected to racial abuse.No action taken by the authorities!!
    2 First big name Catholic to sign for Rangers(Mo Johnstone,there had been others before)received numerous death threats from Celtic supporters and had to have 24hr security and personal bodyguard.
    3 Nacho Novo(Spanish Catholic)received bullets and death threats in the post as well as having his home address posted on a Celtic fan forum inciting attacks on him and his family.
    4 Mo Edu(black American Rangers player)subjected to racial abuse at Celtic Park.
    5 Claudio Reyna(American Rangers player)subjected to taunts about 9/11 by Celtic supporters including some making aeroplane signs(arms outstretched)at him whilst taking a corner kick.Picture taken by reporter and available on the web.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:05 am | Reply
  23. Molly Gates

    What is happening is quite simply bullying. Rangers fans/ Hearts fans/ others are so blind that they cannot see what is happening is bullying. They blame the victim of the aggression instead of the perpetrators. It is as stupid as blaming those poor children raised in the Kincora Boys Home

    Wake up fans of Rangers and Heart......it is YOU who are the problem!

    May 13, 2011 at 8:49 am | Reply
  24. kenny

    James Sankey

    Just so as you know in future.

    Gil Herron played for Celtic in 1951 and Abdul Salim in 1937

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/celtic/3537168/Celtics-first-black-player-Gil-Heron-dies-aged-87-Football.html

    Mark Walters wasn't even the first black player to play for Rangers – look it up yourself.

    (But banana part sadly accurate)

    Maurice Edu was racially abused BY RANGERS FANS AT AT IBROX!

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/rangers/6395812/Maurice-Edu-accuses-Rangers-fans-of-racial-abuse.html

    I have no idea what you are talking about when you mention a KKK fantasy.

    It appears you may not either.

    May 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  25. Thai Blue

    Anyone who thinks this is just about religion is seriously misguided. Why has no other celtic manager or player been targeted?

    We have see many 'characters over the years and decades that wind up opposition fans but they have never had this to cope with.

    Rangers and their fans feel aggrieved that that they are targeted for sectarian behaviour yet the club and the fans associations have made great efforts to rid themselves of this. Despite this celtic fans sing in praise of banned terrorist organisations and nothing happens!

    What real journalists should be doing is investigate Lennons background and see what he has been up to behind the scenes! Does anyone think that the manager of such a great club should be seen with and pose for photographs with balaclava covered people holding weapons?

    I do not condone any attacks on anyone but you reap what you sow Mr. Lennon.

    May 14, 2011 at 6:03 am | Reply
  26. Spuds

    Neil Lennon is currently the most demonised figure in the football World. He is extremely passionate about his club, a feature I'm sure that most clubs would insist a manager has to have and it is obvious he can motivate and inspire those around him. He is also a very emotional individual and sometimes it is that emotion that manifests itself in ways that can irritate others, such as when he cupped his ears towards the Rangers fans at the end of the recent Old Firm game. If he can just exercise slightly more control over these emotions, he will go on to be a success at Celtic. However, are Celtic fans looking at him through green tinted glasses? He has spent a few million on players, primarily to win the league, yet his nemesis, Walter Smith, has spent nothing, yet it is his team that have finished top of the pile – again! Emotion and passion are wonderful, but the ability to manufacture a league winning team has eluded Lennon. Celtic fans have to ask – can Neil Lennon put a lid on his sometimes wayward emotions and produce a Championship winning team? Sectarianism is Scotlands Shame, and there is no place in football for the treatment Lennon has had to endure. At the end of the day, he is a family man, who has a unique job. The sick, twisted individuals who court sectarianism need to grow up, take a long look at themselves and ask if they would like a member of their family subjected to such shameful treatment.

    By the way, I support my local team, St Johnstone.

    May 15, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Reply
  27. Tom Armour

    Anyone who has been to an 'Old Firm' game will tell you that both sets of fans are very passionate and 'one eyed'. You will never get any of them to admit they are fanatical.
    The truth is, ( from a neutral fan of good football ), is that Rangers and their supporters have been anti catholic, anti Pope and anti anything that is not protestant for dozens of years.
    For many years, Rangers would not have a catholic player, their fans continue to sing sectarian songs and now are condoning bombs and bullets sent to Celtic officials.
    Edinburgh, has a similar problem with Hearts and Hibs, but nothing compares with the Scottish shame of the Rangers Club and it's supporters.. Shame, shame, shame

    May 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Reply
  28. EvilIndependent

    Ammo and bombs sent to a team because of its dominance and the attitude of one of its characters.

    It's a GAME. A stupid, bloody GAME. Duel it out on the pitch, and LEAVE IT on the pitch.

    Grow up! Idiots.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Reply

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