Practice and context

Celtic goalkeeper, Artur Boruc, has received a police caution for “a combination of behaviour before a crowd in the charged atmosphere of an Old Firm match”. This combination of behaviours included crossing himself in front of Rangers fans. The Roman Catholic Church is alarmed, Alex Salmond said it was a ludicrous decision, the Lib Dems believe it did not warrant a caution but criticised the player’s behaviour during the matc and Rangers fans think the Club should have acted. This highlights the tensions between freedom of religion, expression and association and the public order limitations. A simple act of religious reverence? A display of exclusiveness and identification with one community in front of another to provoke? Or both? UPDATE: The Crown Office have denied the caution was for crossing himself but the other gestures he made to the crowd.

  • willis

    Well balanced intro.

    Note that it is Rangers fans who are complaining, the club itself has said nothing. Apparantly when the notorious loyalist drinking den and murder site “The Bunch of Grapes” re-branded itself as “The Ibrox Bar”, Rangers demanded changes to the frontage to remove their name.

    I have not seen any info on what the “combination of behaviours” were. Surely he didn’t mime playing a bohran!

  • empey head

    Fair Deal, This is a pretty cynical thread that you’ve started.

    We’ve had the GAWA and GAA debates done to death this week. I’m no mystic Meg but I reckon this one might go the same way. Both the GAWA and GAA debates have predictably descended into the usal sectarian whatabouttery and ‘my da’s bigger than your da’ slanging matches.

    Call me naive (go on then!) but sport should be a refuge from all this shite.

    Is it because our political scene is so stagnant that sport is being further polluted by
    those with sectarian agendas who have no idea what the true meaning of sport is. The only optimism this week has been the great work done by the Derry City and Linfield fans at fostering good relations.

    Hope all goes well at the DC/Glens game today but I am a bit apprehensive that there might be trouble.

  • AodhRuadh

    Celtic v Rangers have always been about religion and politics, and occasionally sport.

    If the goalkeeper knowingingly did something that could have caused violence in the crowd then that has nothing to do with sport.

  • Fanny

    Honestly, some people. Isn’t the sign of the cross an ancient Hindu gesture predating Christianity (and Rangers FC) by many millennia?

    “Are you crossin’ at me, Jimmy?”

  • Nevin

    Artur crosses but Jesus saves …

  • Colm

    I think it all depends on the context of how he did it. I haven’t seen any footage of the incident , but surely it would be easy to see if it was done as a genuine personal gesture, ( a quick movement done without looking at anyone in particular) which can be seen being done by many players in Catholic countries , or if he did it while specifically and intentionally looking directly at the Rangers crowd and laughing and gesturing at them while doing so.

    It’s not making the sign of the cross that matters here but the behaviour that surrounded the gesture.

  • Fanny

    “…he did it while specifically and intentionally looking directly at the Rangers crowd and laughing and gesturing at them while doing so.”

    LOL. The sign of the cross replaces the two-fingered salute.

  • Nevin

    [i]CELTIC keeper Artur Boruc has hit out at claims he made obscene gestures to Aberdeen fans last week at Pittodrie.

    Grampian Police are investigating complaints from Dons fans about gestures made by the Hoops stopper.

    However, the giant Pole hit back at the furore surrounding a fixture that also saw a coin thrown at Hoops’ skipper Neil Lennon.

    Boruc said: “I didn’t do anything wrong. After our first goal I just turned to the home crowd and put my finger to my mouth to tell them ‘be silent’.[/i]


    I suppose certain gestures are open to interpretation 😉

  • Colm


    I am only trying to put thie situation into context and explain how it could have been viewd according to related behaviour, but personally I do agree with you that it’s a load of nonsense and it certainly isn’t something that anyone should get even the slightest bit annoyed by.

    If you can become angry becuase you see someone making a sign of the cross then it’s a sad reflection on your own intelligence and common sense and more so for the authorities to pander to this fake and unjustified anger.

  • Fanny

    “I am only trying to put the situation into context…”

    I know you were, Colm, and I agree with you it’s ludicrous. What’s next, “I didn’t mean to kill him, m’lud, but he provoked me by breathing.”

  • bertie

    Unless we have some particular reason to beleive that he was crossing himself to provoke, then I will assume that it was a private gesture. If I was of a mind to cross myself then during a football match would be one of the times to do it.

    If (and I repeat if) it was intended to provoke, it is a pathetic gesture. At the same time I can’t see how someone could provoke me my crossing themselves “at” me even if great offence was intended. In iteslf it is a none story. Although it does give us the opportunity to explore offence and intention.

  • Colm

    although it was apparently part of a series of actions which were used justify the criminal caution. If however it was the sign of the cross gesture alone that he was cautioned for then I am surprised he has accepted that and should appeal , after all a caution is a crimianl record.

  • dave

    Just as well the world cup wasn’t played in Scotland,most of the players would have been in jail, if blessing yourself is a crime.

    image link

    [Try to avoid lengthy urls – edited moderator]

  • na

    I’m more interested in when isn’t generally acceptable for Catholics to bless themselves .

    Is it only at Old Firm games?

    While being in charge of a prayer in the vincinity of Rangers’ fans?

    While asking assistance from God in the gaze of those that dislike Catholic prayers?

    When near a Protestant in charge of a heretical thought?

    Maybe the SFA and others should give guidance to Catholics on just when it is acceptable to pray?

  • Fanny

    Na, being a practising idiot I find your post deeply offensive and am alerting the PSNI at once.

  • na

    As a BTW: is group singing a hymn of praise to the head of a church as religiously sectarian as an individual saying a personal prayer before work? God fearing IRFU fans need to know.

  • Anna Dale

    Where Boruc’s actions an innocent expression of private faith?

    If so, don’t know what all the furore is about.

  • bob

    maybe next time benedict appears on tv the swiss will hopefully be arresting him for being catholic.

    Rangers fans grow up. The penal laws went out a long time ago

  • bob

    that was meant to be swiss guard, sorry.

  • bob

    may i note, it is also got to see nobody here has been offended by this innocent gesture.

  • Nevin

    It appears there were a number of gestures, Bob

    [i]Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2006 1:55 pm Post subject: Re: Artur Boruc

    He made a ‘come on then’ gesture to the crowd behind him before blessing himself with a large grin on his face, staring straight into the stand.

    He knew what he was doing, same as he knew what he was doing when he turned to us and didded the ol’ ‘GIRFUY’ gesture.[/i]

  • Brian Boru

    Shows that in the UK, somethings never change. Our ancestors of course had to put up with far-more extremes than this. Like being cut open for saying Mass, driven from our ancestral lands, butchered, pitch-capped, and sold into slavery just because our of Catholicism. Can Northern Catholics really expect equality of treatment in the UK state in which you can be penalised for making as much as the sign of the cross, or where there is a state religion?

  • Fanny

    “Can Northern Catholics really expect equality of treatment in the UK…”

    Possibly not. But you can convert to Islam and be guaranteed preferential treatment.

  • bob


    you proved my point to 20 was wrong. maybe u do not watch football but gesturing at fans happens quite alot. Rangers fans may remember neil lennon’s salute to sectarian chants and how o neill embraced him after this sectarian behaviour. I do not believe neil lennon recieved a caution. I wonder if he had made the sign of the cross would this have been different. this is not a threatening symbol but as i have been taught throughout my life as a proclamation of my faith and a simple belief of asking for God’s help when i may need it. As Artur Boruc is a fellow catholic i believe he shows this as his profession of faith in his plea for God’s assistance wether that be on a football pitch or not. It is a sad fact people find this offensive. May Artur Boruc continue to publicly profess his faith in God.

  • peter fallow

    “Call me naive (go on then!) but sport should be a refuge from all this shite.”

    What a pity that republicans are appropriating every form of sport they can to their sectarian cause, then.
    I remember well the clarion calls from those quarters when Gazza amusingly mimed playing a a flute. You are reaping what you have sewn, sectarian republicans. Bad luck.

  • Nevin

    Bob, I’m not offended; I just decided to do a little googling to find out a little bit more about what happened at that game and whether or not Boruc had ‘offended’ other fans. Perhaps the clergy should have done the same; they wouldn’t be too happy about the religious gesture being used as a follow-up to the ‘FIRGUY’ one.

  • Dave

    “Shows that in the UK, somethings never change. Our ancestors of course had to put up with far-more extremes than this. Like being cut open for saying Mass, driven from our ancestral lands, butchered, pitch-capped, and sold into slavery just because our of Catholicism. Can Northern Catholics really expect equality of treatment in the UK state in which you can be penalised for making as much as the sign of the cross, or where there is a state religion?

    Posted by Brian Boru on Aug 26, 2006 @ 08:15 PM”

    If you want to know more about the catholic faith then perhaps you should read this from (Avro Manhattan) maybe then you will understand why things are the way they are.

  • Nevin

    Dave, you have no link to ‘this’.

  • Brian Boru

    Dave did you intend placing a link in your post. because I don’t know what you mean. May I add that many’s the time that Rangers players have made sectarian gestures at matches including mimicing playing the flute, but do they get cautioned? Nope.

  • Nevin

    For information: Gascoigne repented

  • Nevin

    [i]The Sunday Herald understands that the procurator fiscal decided to issue the caution against Boruc on the basis of police reports and witness statements. It said the “incident” was not caught on video.

    Police reports highlighted three hand gestures made by 26-year-old Boruc during an Old Firm match in February – a V sign at the crowd, another obscene gesture at the crowd and a blessing.

    Since the Polish footballer began playing professionally he has crossed himself before the start of every game, as well as at the start of the second half as part of a good-luck ritual.[/i]


  • bob

    “I didn’t see the incident myself, but I was aware of a commotion behind the goal and many fans of the supporters bus saw Boruc cross himself and were angered by it, I find it difficult to believe that he didn’tknow what he was doing.”

    John McMillan, Rangers supporters federation

    Now we know why ranger’s fans were upset. They were offended by a Christian gesture of faith this is what the fans have said.

  • jk

    Assuming the multiple gesture story is true, it is obvious which gesture offended the Rangers fans the most…. which is really quite a sad state of affairs for them.

    I have heard the scummiest and foulest shouting at football games, should the people be arrested and warned (or charged) for their behaviour? If not, why not?

  • Nevin

    Perhaps it was the combined effect, jk. Perhaps this gesturing to opposing fans in different venues is just Boruc’s way of psyching himself up. Perhaps those making all the fuss now are just digging themselves into a hole?

  • lovely leitrim

    I seem to remember Maurice Johnstone teasing the Rangers fans with the Sign of the Cross in his green and white days. And when he signed for Rangers, the Ibrox faithful loved him. Right?

  • Fanny


    “I have heard the scummiest and foulest shouting at football games…”

    I haven’t. The sports fixtures I attend don’t have spectators using coarse language. Perhaps it’s in the nature of soccer that it attracts this sort of thing.

  • I was at the match, and saw the incident.

    Boruc walked up to the Copland Road stand, grinned (Celtic were a goal up and about to go 18 points clear at the top of the table), crossed himself and followed this up with a “w*nker” hand gesture. I didn’t see a V-sign.

    There’s no doubt that it’s sad that people can be offended by this. However, context is all. If the player had done this while running on the pitch, or had been making a genuine gesture of faith, the police action would have been grossly unjust. But that’s not what happened. Boruc was perfectly well aware of what he was doing, and did it to get a rise out of the crowd.

    Both clubs have a reponsibility to make sure their players do not inflame passions. Even people die after these games as it is. The likes of Ruth Kelly and Alec Salmond would also do well not to pontificate – if that’s the appropriate word – without being in full possession of the facts.

  • Garibaldy

    Report detailing the statement of the Scottish prosecution service here

  • bertie


    “I haven’t. The sports fixtures I attend don’t have spectators using coarse language.”

    Do passions not boil over at croquet then? 😉

  • Fanny

    “Do passions not boil over at croquet then? ;)”

    Very likely, Bertie, but you won’t find a crocket fancier calling another a ******** or even a **** ********** *****!

  • PHIL

    This just highlights why these two clubs shouldn’t be allowed into the English league. Like their politicians, Scottish football teams are not wanted in this country.

  • Baldrick45

    I have it from a Gooner fan who regularly attends home games that several of the London clubs have groups of fans that go “Hissssssssss” whenever they are playing Spurs and the Spurs team is coming on to the pitch.

    When I first heard this I said “WTF? – Hissss?”. His reply, …. “Yeah well they’re a Yids team and that’s the sound of the gas going into the chamber”.

    Who say’s we (or the Scots) have the monopoly on stupid, b*gotted and offensive fans.

    I guess in our world today you can find sh*t anywhere you want to look for it.

    Which doesn’t excuse this incident. But rather than rush to defend Boruc as a some new Catholic martyr, perhaps the Catholic church could have had his own parish priest explore with him why he chose to denigrate such an important symbol of their faith by combining it with what used to be called “an obscene jesture” and by using it specifically to wind up a bunch of neaderthal Prod’s who were always going to find the gesture offensive?

    That they are revealing their own stupid and b*gotted thinking is “a given” but personally I wouldn’t use my religious beliefs as a means of offending anyone. To do so drags down the good name of my church and by association, the names of those men and women who share my beliefs and for whom I have the utmost respect.

    Can I suggest Boruc actually showed by doing what he did that he has as little respect for the Catholic faith as the rangers fans?

  • Bill

    Funny how Rino Gattuso and Basil Boli were never done by the extremely efficient Strathclyde police.

  • Cap’n Bob

    Aiming “jungle “chants at Dider Agathe and Bodo Balde, allowin a player to call a referee “a fucking homo”, not having a problem with a player calling an opponent “a fucking nigger” we need rangers version of”britishness” like a hole in the head.

  • Cap’n Bob

    Would those offended fans be the same ones who have recently given fascist salutes in Israel?