Scott Brown hopes that the outrage that greeted the taunt about his late sister outside Ibrox might prove a tipping point to prevent other players suffering such sickening personal attacks.
Fiona Brown lost her life to a rare form of skin cancer at the age of 21 in 2008 and the Celtic captain revealed he had been subjected to vile comments about her ever since.
Brown was mocked with a shout of “how’s your sister?” as he made his way to the Celtic team bus following the 2-0 win over Rangers a week past Sunday.
The 34-year-old described the response of Rangers fans, who pointed out the individual to police, as “phenomenal”. It is a term he also employed to describe the support he has received from supporters of both sides of the Glasgow divide since the incident. Charges were brought against a 15-year-old last week.
Brown hopes this will bring an end to the abuse about a family tragedy that will never leave him. “It’s not just one incident, it’s happened to me for the past 12 years. I have got used to people shouting that and people saying that,” he said. “I don’t really like to comment on it because it is something that still hurts me to this day.
“It shouldn’t be in football, but it is. For me, it’s about how I go on and prove everyone wrong. I just keep playing football with a smile on my face and, hopefully, it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“It’s not a nice thing because you never know what could happen with your family or who it can happen to. What’s happened to me has happened to a lot of other people as well. It’s not just about me. It’s happening with other players. It is not a nice thing to be said. But it’s what happened and it’s about how you deal with it.”
Brown blames social media for coarsening public discourse but points out it is not directly applicable when considering his experience of two weeks ago.
“That was me walking to a bus [so] do you want people to stay away from buses?” he said before adding, “It’s hard because people can do it on Twitter and send it to you directly. It can be done on Instagram. It can be done on the street and no-one else can stop that. It’s one person with a daft 30 seconds which they may probably regret afterwards, but they said it and that’s the problem.
“You get it all the time walking down streets and on Twitter, it doesn’t bother you too much. You just walk away from them because there are a lot of people who could get tempted into doing something silly.
“It’s part and parcel. As I say, it’s about being mentally strong. People can shout and swear at me as much as they want on the park but don’t go into detail off the park like that. I just focus on what I need to do. Here’s hoping that’s the end of it.”
Brown has praised the reaction of both Celtic and Rangers fans in the aftermath of the incident for which he received an apology from Rangers.
“They (Rangers) sent an email, so that was lovely of them to actually do that,” said the midfielder, who was promoting a new sponsorship deal between energy form Utilita and Celtic Women’s team.
“Fans from both sides were phenomenal to be honest.
“It’s not just one incident, it’s happened over the last 12 years of my career. It’s hard, it’s sad and it shouldn’t be happening.
“For me that’s finished with. It’s about me focusing on football now and continuing winning games.
“It’s always difficult [not to react] but I don’t want to keep talking about that situation.”