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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 May, 2004, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
A fitting farewell

By Chick Young
BBC Scotland football correspondent

For a man who has been talking glorious sense, there is some amount of drivel being talked about Henrik Larsson.

As the Swede plays monopoly with the headlines there should be a round of thunderous applause for his public observations about the anti-social habits of Scots.

Cult heroes tend to have more success persuading the morons than the rest of us.

Larsson, it seems, will miss much about Scotland. It does, I know, tickle him that wife Magdalena and son Jordan have picked up Glasgow accents.

That accent he likes. The words he hears from some others shaped in its dialect he loathes.

Larsson spoke out against the bigotry in Scottish football
Larsson spoke out against the bigotry in Scottish football
I don't blame him. As an incomer he has no chance of understanding the bile and the bigotry, the hatred and the violence.

I was born in Glasgow, raised in Glasgow, have spent more than half a century in Glasgow and I can't comprehend it.

What chance is there for an intelligent Swede who has lived the last seven years living a fantasy existence to get to grips with it?

But take a bow, Henrik, for having a go. for publicly questioning the sanity of lunatics who verbally abuse people they don't even know just because they play for the other side.

For admitting it sickens you to hear the minds of young kids being poisoned by the morons beside them.

Maybe, just maybe, your preaching won't land on stony ground although you will of course realise that there are plenty whose chance of rehabilitation is beyond hope. It is the next generation we have to save from themselves.

As a farewell speech it showed courage and dignity, two commodities with which Larsson has peppered his time in the Scottish game. He has been an outstanding ambassador for himself, his family and his country. For most of the time.

He doesn't get a perfect 10. I remember, for example, a horror tackle on Gus McPherson when he was playing for Kilmarnock, which left a vicious gash on the shin and upper ankle of the Rugby Park defender. Henrik's halo slipped more than a little that night.

But it would be crass to argue about the impact he has made our game.

However let's keep this in perspective.

Larsson has been a tremendous asset to the Scottish game
Larsson has been a tremendous asset to the Scottish game
Already I have read at least one tabloid hack equating his departure to a death in the family. I hope they are never in the position where they are genuinely placed to make the comparison.

Frankly I am already a little Larsson-ed out. The hype, the headlines, the hysteria.

He is a fantastic footballer. Probably the best foreigner ever to bless our game.

But he is walking away by his own volition, to resume a more normal life.

And he departs weighed down by the millions he has earned from our game, paid in the main by supporters who sweat to earn the kind of annual wage packet that he turns over in a week.

There has been no death here, rather a celebration for Celtic of a player who will be remembered while those who saw him play are still breathing and beyond that by those who take an interest in the history of the club game in this country.

It's not Larsson's fault. He is a private kind of bloke who has done well to more or less stay off the front pages, although he must have realised what a bizarre country he had adopted when the biggest selling rag in the land devoted page one to the fact that he had a haircut.

I talk to him a lot professionally, but I would never claim to know him. He is a private, family bloke who keeps himself to himself. And that's allowed.

But I know he won't miss the publicity and the Henrik headlines.

And you know what? The way I feel now, neither will I.





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