Football

Why Celtic vs. Rangers is called the ‘Old Firm’ derby

Rangers and Celtic are set to lock horns for the 412th time this weekend.

The Old Firm derby is revered globally as one of the biggest and best derbies in the world of football – up there with El Clasico, Superclasico and the North-West Derby.

But have you ever wondered how it got its name? El Clasico (The Classic) and the North-West Derby are pretty self-explanatory but the Old Firm is quite unique by its naming – and then some.

Something which won’t come as news to most is that Celtic and Rangers’ rivalry does have roots in religion; Celtic being Catholics and Rangers being Protestants but it is much more than that.

Simply looking at the emblems of the clubs beings to offer some insight to their history; Celtic’s green crest – befitting of their Irish heritage – and, smack-bang in the middle of it, a large shamrock. Rangers’ blue and white crest is likely coloured as such to bestow their Scottish identity.

History of the rivalry

This is where the rivalry begins: over 130 years ago there were a substantial population of Irish immigrants in the East End of Glasgow and Celtic Football Club was founded as a club that the Irish-Scots could align themselves with.

It started off quite rosy indeed with Celtic inviting Rangers to play a friendly and the two clubs even started travelling together if they played fixtures in the same area. It was only when Celtic began to establish themselves as a powerhouse in Scottish football that tensions began.

In 1912, a shipyard was opened in Glasgow by a company from Belfast and this is often identified as the catalyst that built-up one of the most fiery rivalries in world football.

Politics eventually found a way into the game as Celtic fans are traditionally supporters of the Labour Party and Rangers fans, the Conservatives. However the lines are more blurred nowadays and it’s not as clear-cut, we simply live in a different world in which people may want different things.

The Derby has even got to a point where it’d become so heated that title deciders are purposefully avoided and the time of the games are usually played in the early afternoon – to decrease the likelihood of fans making a day of it and getting drunk before entering the stadium.

Nowadays the rivalry is more to do with what’s happening on the pitch but, even as recently as 2012, a former footballer of Rangers said he was informed to not cross himself before matches – showing there may still remain the ideals of yesteryear at the clubs.

So why is it called the ‘Old Firm’?

The exact origin of the name isn’t clear but there have been suggestions that it’s to do with Rangers and Celtic being two of the 11 original Scottish Premier League clubs or because of a tendency of commentators to refer to the two clubs as “auld (old), firm friends”.

Most likely though, the name may come from a political cartoon from the early 1900s which depicted an elderly man holding a board stating “Patronise the Old Firm” – this was because of a suspicion that Celtic and Rangers were artificially fuelling their rivalry for revenue.

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