Why there was very little 'hypocrisy' from Celtic and their supporters over the treatment of Boli Bolingoli
A month after causing a massive media storm and the postponement of three Celtic games, Boli Bolingoli’s exit from Parkhead on a year-long loan was confirmed yesterday. Craig Fowler looks back at August’s furore and accusations made by other supporters against the Scottish champions and their supporters.
Human beings are naturally hypocritical. We will always rationalise our own behaviour and forgive family and friends for actions which we would otherwise deem deplorable if committed by a stranger or public figure.
Football fans are human beings (as much as the Scottish Government would like to pretend otherwise), but with one difference: every aspect of life involving their number one passion is viewed through a lens of vibrating, red-hot emotion.
The moral side of football has been corrupt ever since it was no longer looked upon as a simple means of entertainment and instead a way of life.
Violating the civil rights of men, women and children in a distant, unfamiliar country? Who cares! We just bought a £50million striker!
Of course, supporters still revel in calling out those who follow a rival club over such behaviour, regardless of how often they’ve indulged in such behaviour themselves.
One such instance occurred in the immediate aftermath of Boli Bolingoli’s decision to keep quiet over a short trip to Spain, thereby skipping quarantine on return and putting the whole Scottish Premiership season in jeopardy.
“You wouldn’t say that if was Odsonne Edouard who did it!” came the cries from opposition supporters after Celtic fans wanted him sacked. And yes that’s true. But mainly because Edouard is a very good footballer and Bolingoli isn’t.
The defender looked like an exciting addition when he arrived from Rapid Vienna last summer. He was an experienced, attacking full-back, ready to take on the challenge of filing Kieran Tierney’s boots after the golden boy decided to uproot himself for the riches of Arsenal and the English Premier League.
Unfortunately for those expectations, Bolingoli didn’t hit the ground running. His defensive positioning looked tremendously suspect, he made simple errors on the ball and he often drifted inside on attacks when his team really needed him to stick to going down the flank.
Though there were signs of improvement, notably a strong performance in a 2-0 win against Rangers at Ibrox, he never truly reached the levels expected of his £3million transfer fee. It was safe to say he was already heading for the Celtic exited door before he launched himself out of it.
The silver lining for supporters was that it quickened his departure, even if it did drive his price down and, ultimately, may be a big reason why he’s only going out on loan. The Parkhead board will hope he shines for İstanbul Başakşehir, particularly in the Champions League. If he does then they are far more likely to make the kind of money from his permanent transfer they hoped for before this sorry episode occurred.
Some fans weren’t satisfied. A loan means he could well be back next year and it doesn’t quench their thirst for a perceived sense of justice; he make a selfish error in a crucial season and should be punished to the fullest extent, is what they wanted. And it’s perfectly understandable.
They would not be calling for a sacking in the case of Edouard, James Forrest or Callum McGregor, three players who in the past have made immoral decisions. But then, why would they? These players frequently bring delight to these same supporters. Edouard, for example, is a man who could help change the future of Celtic as a club if he fires them to ten-in-a-row and remains for the Champions League qualifiers next term. Then he could earn them £30million-plus in a transfer fee, along with the £30million in UCL money, which would make it exponentially easier to find a suitable replacement and continue Celtic’s unprecedented domination of Scottish football.
In the eyes of Celtic and their fans, Bolingoli was a poor employee even before all of this. Sums of money, which were not insignificant, were spent bringing the player to Glasgow and allowing him to live a very comfortable life. He has not paid back that outlay with his performances on the park. Then he commits last month’s brazen act of deceit. In similar cases, most employers would invoke harsher punishments on workers they didn’t deem to be worthy of keeping on. Why should Celtic or any football club be any different?
The more stubborn among the support may argue sacking the left-back is purely a moral decision - and the right one at that. He was selfish, deceitful and has put his entire club at a disadvantage, not to mention the health risk he posed to his team-mates, his opponents and the wider public. He should go.
We know these people would not have climbed so readily onto that high horse if it were Edouard, Forrest, McGregor etc. That’s undeniably hypocritical. But then they are only human.
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