It might have escaped the attention of many, which in itself could suggest progress of more than the Niederkorn kind. But in the week that Rangers launched their laudable Everyone Anyone initiative – aimed at promoting inclusivity among a support given to anti-Catholic expression – the instant that followed Joe Aribo scoring the opener might almost have appeared choreographed. The 22-year-old midfielder bowed his head and appeared to make the sign of the cross before pointing skyward. Across world football such gestures are commonplace. But they haven’t exactly been witnessed from home players in Ibrox stadium as a consequence of what the Everyone Anyone campaign seems to be making a genuine effort to address. A form of discrimination that all too often in the past seemed to be the great unmentionable.
There is no question the club face a challenge as they do so. Inside only six minutes of last night’s tie, a – small, it should be noted – section of the support gave vent to “f*** the Pope and the Vatican”… as was heard in high-profile encounters last season. But the genuinely positive messages beamed on a video screening at half-time last night, in which chairman Dave King featured heavily, represent a serious stand being taken.
Progres Niederkorn from two years ago is remembered for all the wrong reasons. However, as Ibrox hosted European football for the first time in six years that night King appeared on the pitch and appealed to supporters to be “ambassadors” for their club and avoid any singing that would sully the club’s reputation.
He more recently demonstrated he would not shirk from the sectarian issue by making an unequivocal apology to Steve Clarke after the then Kilmarnock manager called out Rangers supporters following their “Fenian bastard” chants at him during a Scottish Cup tie in February. In his video message last night, he revealed the Everywhere Everyone initiative had been a year in the planning.
Celtic’s pursuit of nine-in-a-row with all the froth and fury that will bring as Rangers attempt to stop them, coupled with the militant wings of the two clubs falling back on their base tribal instincts doesn’t bode well for the domestic campaign ahead. At least Rangers have set out unmistakably that they do not want to be chained, or defined, by religious bigotry.