Missile-throwing is par for the course
IT MAY be an unlikely grouping, but the German national coach Rudi Völler, Partick striker James Grady and 19-year-old Celtic season ticket holder Dominic Schiavone are linked by a set of shared characteristics.
All three are regaled as renowned penalty-box predators in their respective strata; Vller as a past master in the illustrious environs of the Bundesliga, Serie A and the French Championnat, Grady renowned throughout the Scottish game for not only his goals but also his jaw-dropping ball skills, while the mere mention of the free-scoring Schiavone is enough to strike dread into the hearts of the many pot-bellied defenders ruthlessly embarrassed by Dominic in the Townhead Pitz five-a-side Sunday morning league.
The trio’s collective refusal to acknowledge true genius was also emphasised when all three failed to highlight yours truly in a recent opinion poll to ascertain the world’s greatest living footballer. And they also share the unwanted distinction of being showered by a volley of phlegm from the mouth of a prominent footballing superstar during the course of a match. Rudi’s celebrated silver demi-wave was infiltrated by the throat contents of Dutch soccer icon Frank Rijkaard during the Italia 90 World Cup, James was given a closer than necessary viewing of Rangers skipper Lorenzo Amoruso’s pre-match food intake in a tense Scottish Cup tie at Somerset Park, while Dominic’s recompense for a playful pat on the peroxide head of Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf during last season’s UEFA Cup clash was a shower of spittle on a scale akin to that encountered by a political reporter trying to interview the Spitting Image puppet of Labour legend Roy Hattersley.
Last Sunday’s televised encounter between Hearts and Celtic will long be remembered for a number of undesirable reasons. It will not be recalled as the full debut of Celtic’s recent recruit from Fir Park Stephen Pearson or even for the fact that Celtic midfielder Stilian Petrov arrived menacingly in the Hearts box and managed to keep his footing. Hearts keeper Craig Gordon was spat upon by a supporter of the Parkhead side while the Bhoys custodian between the sticks Rab Douglas was struck on the back of the head by a coin launched onto the field by a Hearts fanatic.
While countless armchair viewers grimaced uncomfortably as Big Rab repeatedly rubbed his aching cranium, match referee Kenny Clark had a different reading of the incident and neglected to include it in his report to his supervisors. Mr Clark obviously felt that Douglas was merely displaying the stereotypical anglophile view of the miserly, parsimonious Scot and that Rab had simply bent down to pick up the fifty pence coin that had dislodged from his pocket. And such was the pace that big Rab had dived down to recapture the renegade currency that it had struck him on the back of the head during its descent to the Tynecastle turf.
While a figure skater longs to be showered by petalled projectiles from the viewing galleries following a performance, the launching of articles from the terraces onto the field of play is predominantly problematic for a footballer. As an apprentice professional with Celtic back in January 1988, I was appalled at the hideous racist goading of Rangers’ black winger Mark Walters during his Old Firm debut at Celtic Park. I was even more sickened on the morning after the match when I was told to help clear the Parkhead trackside of the dozens of bananas that had been thrown onto the field by so-called Celtic supporters intent on upsetting the on-field focus of the Ibrox wing wizard.
When Luis Figo returned to the home of his former club Barcelona in the colours of his new employers Real Madrid, among the hundreds of missiles fired in his direction each time he ventured to take a corner in front of the Nou Camp ultras were golf balls, lighters, a J&B whisky bottle and even a pig’s head.
While never cascaded on a Scottish football pitch with the body parts of dead animals, (although I have been likened in song by terracing mirth-makers to the posterior of a horse), there was an occasion during my tenure as a Dunfermline player that an object hurtled from the stands caused me a great deal of personal distress.
As I raced to accompany Pars striker Andy Smith in his celebratory goalscoring routine in front of the visiting Rangers support at East End Park, I noticed the view of both the referee and his assistant was obscured from my actions by my team-mates’ joyous cavorting. Seeing an excellent opportunity to repay the travelling support for their relentless barracking of myself as a former Celtic player, I made a most un-Christian gesture towards the red, white and blue hordes that involved one hand being thrust into the inner elbow junction of the opposite arm and my middle finger being raised aloft in a thoroughly derogatory fashion. As I fell to the ground clutching my face following my nose coming into contact with an unidentified object hurled in my direction, I began to dream of the front page headlines that would be set aside for my assault and the range of menacing weapons that could have been used to cause me such pain and anguish.
Just as I was perfecting my dying swan routine, my team-mate Stewart Petrie bent down and whispered in my ear, "Get up you big blouse, it’s an apple core that’s hit you and it’s stuck to the front of your jersey."
It may not have been an empty whisky bottle but if one of those pips had got in my eye I could have picked up a really nasty infection.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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