By Jeff Webb.
After being off since the end of March, children in Scotland finally returned to school this week. As they get back into the new reality of social distancing they are also being taught the importance of new requirements such as hand washing, and how to prevent the spread of a deadly virus and keep the public and their families safe.
Unfortunately, whilst the children of Scotland are learning, footballers are having trouble. Since football returned, we have seen numerous issues surrounding social distancing and coronavirus measures, and most recently with the eight Aberdeen first-team players who went out to a restaurant merely hours after losing to Rangers.
After the ‘Aberdeen Eight’ story broke, the club had its game against St Johnstone postponed because of a Covid-19 breakout in the city. The Aberdeen players did write an apology to their fans and everyone they had let down by actions. The club has since fined the players, giving the money to the NHS, and have been charged by both the SFA and SPFL.
Aberdeen say they have "heavily fined" eight players who breached coronavirus protocols by visiting a bar on August 1.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 14, 2020
Whilst the Aberdeen story broke, an even worse story was being written. Celtic players were given two days off by the club after their opening day victory over Hamilton. The players were told in clear terms not to leave the city. Despite this, Celtic left-back Boli Bolingoli decided to fly from Glasgow to Málaga on the Monday afternoon and returned on the Tuesday.
The Scottish Government have a law in place that, if you travel back from Spain you are required to isolate for 14 days. A law Boli ignored. Instead, he told no-one at the club and returned to training as normal. On the Sunday, when Celtic travelled to Kilmarnock, he even played in the final minutes of the game.
In doing so he completed a selfish act that not only put his own health at risk but also that of his teammates, his teammates’ families, the Celtic staff and their families; and also the staff, players and families of everyone involved at Kilmarnock.
Unlike the Aberdeen eight, Bolingoli hasn’t so far issued an apology and therefore it is little wonder that most Celtic fans are wanting his contract at the club ripped up.
There should be no way back for Bolingoli at Celtic now. If he knowingly went to Spain before the Kilmarnock game and broke quarantine rules he showed he really doesn’t give a sh## about his teammates, the manager and the support… Celtic should get rid immediately
— Chris Sutton (@chris_sutton73) August 10, 2020
Though the player’s actions are to be condemned, they are not nearly as bad as the actions of the person who took the photos of him on the plane. In the end, he was only caught because, at lunchtime the day after the Killie game, he told the Celtic management what had happened. This was only because a newspaper was about to release the story that he had travelled to Spain.
His actions are inexcusable, but the person who took the photos should thoroughly ashamed. As much as the player put everyone at risk, and he did, it could simply have been stopped if the person who took the photo handed it over or contacted a relevant authority. In order to take a photo of the player, they clearly knew who he was, therefore, they know the risks. Maybe next time if they see a player on a plane returning from a virus hotspot, they could hand the photo to someone in authority and not sell it to a tabloid. Maybe.
As a result of these recent incidents, Scottish football was told in no uncertain terms it was in a last chance saloon. Both Celtic and Aberdeen games were suspended and both clubs have been charged by the SFA and SPFL.
After the telling off from the government, Scottish Premiership games returned at the weekend, but not much happened. United snatched a 2-1 win at Ross County, Killie were beaten by St Johnstone, Hibs and Motherwell made everyone suffer a bore draw, while St Mirren kept their great start to the season going with a 1-0 win at Hamilton.
For Rangers, on the other hand, things weren’t so simple. When it became clear that Celtic wouldn’t play at the weekend, Rangers had the chance to build an 11-point gap over their city rivals. Unfortunately, as is becoming extremely common for Rangers under Steven Gerrard, their bottle went in the vital moment.
So far since Gerrard came to Rangers, the club crashes at the moment they aren’t chasing top spot. Every time they are expected to build a gap over Celtic they fail to take advantage.
Now, praise Livingston for defending brilliantly, but that won’t distract from the fact that Rangers couldn’t break down the side that had only picked up 1-point prior to this game.
With Celtic playing in a Champions League qualifier this week and then facing a trip to Tannadice at the weekend, the pressure will shift to Neil Lennon’s side to amend their errors at Killie. Rangers host Killie and will hope that this season’s big-money signings can finally start coming good and build a gap over Celtic.
Here’s hoping that the players have finally learnt their lessons.