Monday, October 6, 2008

Evil Celtic fans send Spaniard death threats

Nacho Novo has revealed how life as a Rangers hero in the most hateful world of Old Firm football means he now regularly suffers vile death threats, as well as vandalism and intimidation from Celtic supporters.

The Ibrox striker said that before and during every meeting between the two clubs, he is the subject of sick mail and has his property and car damaged by fanatics.

The revelation from Novo comes in the wake of a police investigation that was launched after the Spaniard's home address was posted menacingly on a Celtic fans' website shortly after he helped Rangers win the first Glasgow derby of the season 4-2 at Parkhead.

There was controversy following the match, when Celtic first team coach Neil Lennon was assaulted in Glasgow's west end hours after the final whistle.

Abuse of footballers has been a hot topic after the racist taunts dished out to England's Emile Heskey in Croatia last month and, this week, Portsmouth made an official complaint about the conduct of Spurs fans who mercilessly baited Sol Campbell last Sunday at Fratton Park.

But in Novo's case - and that of Lennon, who was also the subject of abuse in his playing days - extremists on both sides of the Glasgow divide have depressingly been able to take local hostilities too far into the private lives of stars away from the field of play.

When speaking about life as a Rangers player amid a religious rivalry, Novo said 'Things have changed because players from other countries keep coming to the Old Firm and bringing completely different cultures with them'.

'But rivalry between the two teams remains something more than sporting'.

'I have even recieved death threats this year. I have seen on YouTube there is a video with a guy singing with his guitar that he hoped that I die. That kind of thing has an impact on you'.

'In the four years i've been here, I have been through everything. Every time I face Celtic, the tyres in my car are punctured, the windows in my house are broken and I have been sent threatening letters. It is a pretty disagreeable situation'.

Despite working under these conditions, Novo - who has signing talks with Celtic before opting to join Alex McLeish's Rangers in 2004 - admits he loves playing football in such an intense and demanding environment. And, unlike his strike partner Kenny Miller, he insisted he would never end up playing on the opposite side of the city at any stage in his career.

'Rangers have treated me so well, the fans have become like a family to me', said Novo, speaking in a Spanish football magazine interview. 'No matter how much money was put in front of me, I would never sign for Celtic'.

'You can't understand unless you are here to live and see it. The rivalry and intensity is something I have never seen in my life and I think it's the greatest thing any football can be a part of. It's my opinion that of all the derby matches in the world, this is the best by a long way'.

'When you are on the pitch, the noise of the two supports screaming so loudly means that, when a player next to you speaks, you cannot hear him and it is totally impossible to hear the coach's instructions'.

'The atmosphere in the city for a week before the game transmits directly into the dressing room such that you have to play, you are desperate to be chosen and you can't wait until kick-off'

Novo, whose side head for Love Street this afternoon hoping that victory over St Mirren will keep them in front of Celtic in the title race, believes he will have the last laugh over his Celtic tormentors.

He said 'Pedro Mendes has hugely improved our play and it's great to have Steven Davis back. I think we have a title-winning squad. Losing against Kaunas was hard to take but now we are using it as a spur to win the Treble'.
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