A Sporting Sensation to Watch in Glasgow: The Old Firm

Glasgow is a city that is filled with culture and offers something for everyone – museums, bars, restaurants, galleries, breweries, distilleries and more – but it also offers something that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else in the world; the Old Firm derby.

Probably for some neutral football or soccer fans, they would say the Scottish League has the same emotion than an NFL preseason match – since it’s normally a two horse run, with Celtic winning the title every year since 2011. Nonetheless, the rivalry between the two main city clubs is something that one must witness.

There are rivalries between sports teams all around the globe but the Celtic versus Rangers one is special; most rivalries exist because teams share a city – or they are in the neighbouring town – or perhaps they’ve gone head to head for honours on a consistent basis so a competitive rivalry has been born. Well the Celtic vs Rangers combination meets all of that criteria, but it takes more than just geography and results to be regarded as the most fiercely competed derby in the sporting world.

The history behind the intense hatred – which whilst a strong word is exactly the right word to use in this scenario for a lot of their followers – is centred on religion and immigration. Rangers were founded long before Celtic and have a core of supporters who are born and bred Scottish protestants, but after the Hoops formation Scotland, and particularly Glasgow, saw an influx of Irish-Scottish Catholics arrive – they formed the majority of Celtic’s fan base.

Needless to say that those factors added some extra spice to the fixtures and it’s never dampened down since – even the recent fall and subsequent rise of Rangers after their financial struggles, administration, liquidation and their effective ‘relegation’ to the fourth tier could not take the heat out of the derby. Ironically, the first ever meeting between the teams was dubbed a ‘friendly’, which is a term neither set of fans would use nowadays.

The pair have faced one another 417 times in competitive fixtures with 99 ending in draws. Both are giants of the Scottish game and have dominated the domestic honours winning a combined 223 pieces of silverware – Rangers still edging out Celtic by 115 to 108. Whilst normal fixtures of the Scottish calendar attract little attention worldwide the Old Firm has a global reach with the Scottish Sun publishing an article in 2016 stating that 100 million viewers tuned in to watch a semi-final match between the pair; that’s an audience on par with what the Superbowl attracts.

If TV statistics suggest the Old Firm is a big deal then the atmosphere in the stands on a game day back it up even further with one of the most intense 90 minutes you will find and whilst quality on the field cannot be guaranteed – although it doesn’t often let you down – the passion is never lacking. Tackles always go flying in, the cliché ‘handbags’ are a very safe bet and spitting and full-blown assaults shouldn’t be ruled out.

The derby games are without doubt the highlight of the football season but any football fan would appreciate a tour of the two famous grounds, match day or not; Celtic play their home games at Scotland’s biggest stadium – Celtic Park or Parkhead depending on your preference – which holds near on 61,000 people whilst Ibrox, the home of Rangers, is just a 10 minute journey away. Of course, if you wanted to complete a stadium hat-trick you could venture to Hampden Park, which is the national ground.

There you have it, a football fanatics overview of the must see of Glasgow and if you ever get the chance to combine your trip with an Old Firm game, then grab it with both hands because it will be one of the best experiences of your life – but just remember, it’s much more than a game.