10/24/2009 09:34 PM
Susan Boyle going to a Celtic soccer match makes a very large statement.
I'm sure her advisers were not too keen when she stated she was going, but being Susan, I'm sure she swept away any naysayers.
Celtic is not just any football club. About half the people in Scotland and Northern Ireland can't stand them, the other half love them.
Celtic was started by Irish Catholic immigrants in Scotland in 1888. Since then they have taken on a powerful significance for that
community. The Rangers, their great Glasgow rivals, were started in 1872 and are seen as the Protestant club.
At a time of high sectarian tensions, the two clubs came to represent far more than just football as usual.
Generations of Glaswegians, Scottish and Irish people came to identify with one team or the other. There were often violent sectarian clashes. Just one year ago a Catholic in Northern Ireland was savagely murdered by drunken Rangers fans celebrating a victory over their old enemy.
Their annual clashes are massive games watched by up to 80,000 fans and millions worldwide,. Here in the US there are probably hundreds of Celtic supporter clubs. Their fans are known as the "bhoys," leading to one wonderful headline this week about the "Susan B(h)oyle Celtic Fan."
The Celtic anthem is "Fields of Athenry," about the Irish famine. The best-known Rangers song is "We are the Billy Boys," which celebrates a famous Protestant victory over Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne in 1609.
In Northern Ireland today, young people frequently identify themselves by wearing a Celtic or Rangers sweatshirt. It is like a tribal badge and instantly associates the wearer with one side or the other. Interestingly, I was out at a Notre Dame game last weekend and
saw several supporters wearing Celtic jerseys.
As the descendant of Catholic Irish immigrants, Susan Boyle would have a classic Celtic supporter profile. She proclaimed it so proudly by wearing their scarf and attending a game. Others might have preferred her not to. Yet it is the best example so far of Susan Boyle being her own woman.