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Celtic’s ‘Holy Goalie’ recalls blessing controversy

Former Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc said he still blesses himself before every match despite the backlash he received after making the sign of the cross during an Old Firm derby.

The Polish keeper, who now plays for Premier League side AFC Bournemouth, was at the centre of many controversies during his tenure at Celtic, with the Catholic Church becoming embroiled in one particular dispute.

Boruc, who was nicknamed ‘The Holy Goalie’ by Celtic fans due to his devout Catholic faith, recently opened up about the squabble during an interview published on the website of Polish football club Legia Warsaw, prior to their Europa League qualification showdown tonight with Celtic’s bitter rivals, Rangers.

Boruc, 39, admitted that emotions increased during Old Firm derbies and explained that he could “feel” the “hate” from Rangers fans.

Recalling Celtic’s 1-0 win over their bitter rivals at Ibrox on 12th February 2006, Boruc explained that his sign of the cross was not something he did to rile up Rangers fans.

“I’ve always done it before every match and I still do it. It wasn’t like I came up with it specifically for the Rangers match,” he said, while acknowledging he knew some Rangers fans might be annoyed by it.

Boruc was not charged with any criminal act for blessing himself, but he did receive a formal caution against any future actions that could be deemed provocative. According to reports the keeper had also directed a couple of other gestures towards the home fans and prosecutors pointed out that the caution was for the overall nature of his actions.

After Boruc received the formal caution the Catholic Church condemned Scottish prosecutors, arguing that Catholics would feel subject to persecution following the decision.

“It’s a worrying and alarming development, especially since the sign of the cross is globally accepted as a gesture of religious reverence,” Peter Kearney, director of Scotland’s Catholic Media Office, said at the time. “It’s also very common in international football and was commonplace throughout the World Cup.

“It is extremely regrettable that Scotland seems to have made itself one of the few countries in the world where this simply religious gesture is considered an offence,” he added.

However, in the recent interview with Legia Warsaw, Boruc said: “As far as I know, there was no warning from the prosecutor’s office. Yes, proceedings against me have been initiated, even a parliamentary meeting on this matter has been held. I didn’t have any major troubles because of my behaviour.”

Picture: Artur Boruc celebrates during his time at Celtic. (Joe Giddens/EMPICS Sport).