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The Derby Diaries: Old Firm Derby

Most of what people know about Scottish Football, across the world is thanks to the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers. One of the most fiercest rivalries in world football. Here we look into the history of this contention between the two.

Vinayak Manoj
Last updated: 05.10.2019
The Derby Diaries: Old Firm Derby | Sports Social Blog

The Scottish League since its inception in 1873 has predominantly been about the Old Firm Derby. The powerhouses of Scottish Football- Celtic and Rangers. They are some of the most successful football clubs all over the world. The clubs have been battling each other on the pitch for Scottish football supremacy for more than a century. This intense rivalry can be traced back to the 28th of May 1888, this was when the newly formed Celtic played against the then relatively enigmatic Rangers for a game to inaugurate their new home, Celtic Park in Parkhead. Celtic went on to beat the Rangers 5-2. What started as a friendly encounter became one of the biggest feuds the footballing world has ever seen.

The term Old Firm according to some sources describes the relationship between the fans of both sides, commentators often described them as ‘old, firm friends’. The ability of both teams to attract top players and remain neck deep in competition with each other, while being miles ahead of everyone in the league is the main reason as to why they exert a vice-like grip on Scottish football. The proximity of the two teams within the city of Glasgow has helped maintain a certain appeal of a rivalry. Celtic based in the East end of Glasgow play out of the Celtic Park, the largest stadium in Scotland and the third largest stadium in the UK only behind the Wembley and Old Trafford. The Rangers, based out of the West side of Glasgow across the river Clyde play out of Ibrox, the third largest stadium in Scotland. 


The heated rivalry between the Bhoys and the Gers can be traced back to the sectarian tensions that predate the existence of either club hailing from Glasgow. Behind the globally viewed fierce Old Firm Derby is a hatred whose roots can be found in Scotland’s history of immigration and religion. Celtic F.C. was formed for and by Irish Catholics in the winter of 1887 in St Mary’s Church Hall as a means for raising funds for the Irish immigrants who fled the Potato Famine in Ireland in the 19th century. However since Scotland was a strongly Protestant nation, the Irish community was marginalised and heavily discriminated against. The Bhoys based themselves in the East end of Glasgow and cemented their fan base by serving as a platform for members of the Irish community to meet up. Football was one of the ways through which the poverty stricken families could escape the harsh realities and rigours of daily life.

The club became the flag bearers of the Irish community in Glasgow as the fans aligned themselves with Irish nationalism, so much so that the crest and colours of the club suggested the undeniable influence of the Irish culture; a shamrock and the green and white colour combination. 


The Rangers, on the other hand, founded in 1872 by four young Scots in the Western end of Glasgow. The first two decades of their existence, the Gers were a relatively unknown club that came up with the rise of their rivals. Scotland, a predominantly Protestant country saw the rise of Celtic, a club representing the Irish Catholics meant that the Scottish fans in the city of Glasgow needed to align themselves to a football club that represented the domestic culture.

Football by its very nature is a highly tense and passionate game, but the addition of the deep political history and the religious divisions between the Bhoys and the Gers is characterized by violence. Supporters of both clubs are infamously known for their sectarian chants at matches and violence is all too common where there is religion involved. Reports of violent attacks increase by an average of nine fold all across Scotland whenever the Old Firm play each other. The loss of life is all but new for football fans in Scotland. People have been killed just for walking past the wrong pub in the aftermath of an Old Firm fixture, like Mark Scott in 1995 and more. 


Both clubs have been fined heavily down the years for the conduct of their fans. Whatever happens, the Old Firm rivalry will always have appeal to football fans all over the world.

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