El Hadji Diouf signed for Rangers on the last day of the January window and the immediate focus was on his bad boy image. His history of spitting at fans or opponents and allegedly racially abusing ball boys was often the focus, rather than his footballing achievements. I wrote an article attempting to outline Diouf’s previous misdemeanours and I finished it by saying that I hoped he would avoid controversy and allow us to discuss his footballing. Unfortunately events during Sunday’s Old Firm has me compelled to write this piece, which is not focused on his performance and instead focuses on his running battle with Scott Brown.
Diouf went into Sunday’s Old Firm with a pedigree that suggested he could damage Celtic and one way to counteract that would be to engage in some banter with him and test whether he still suffers from a short fuse. Throughout the game, it was clear that Scott Brown was the man who was often tasked with dealing with Diouf and as part of that there must have been some words going back and forward, although the early parts of the game suggested that neither were reacting to this.
With Celtic being 2-1 down and reduced to ten men after Fraser Forster’s dismissal, Scott Brown received the ball at the edge of the penalty box and expertly squeezed the ball past Allan McGregor and into corner of the goal with his left foot. It was the kind of goal that will only happen a handful of times in your career, especially for a midfielder.
When the goal went in, Brown turned to face Diouf and stood with his arms outstretched with a look on his face that defied his undoubted elation. It was the kind of celebration that would have caused even the most reserved person to react, but Diouf ignored it and instead complained to the referee. Following the stand off, Brown raced over to the Celtic fans in the Broomloan stand to take part in a more conventional celebration.
The game finished 2-2, with no other specific incident between the two, although its clear from both players comments that there was continued “banter”.
Diouf was the first to comment on the match and specifically Brown’s behaviour during the game.
El Hadji Diouf: “Brown tried all sorts of things to get me sent off.
“He said some nasty things about me and my family on the pitch – but I am too big for him.
“He can say all the nasty things he wants. I won’t react.
“He just wants publicity because if I react then people are going to say that El Hadji did something wrong.”
Brown then reacted the next day with his side of the story and unfortunately left us no clearer on who started things or who was the bad guy in this.
Scott Brown: “It started early in the game when Diouf didn’t get a free kick for a challenge I made on him near the corner flag.
“He started moaning about that and trying to be the big man. He started trying to trash talk me – saying how much money he has and how I’m skint.
“To be fair I couldn’t really grumble too much – the lad does have a bit of cash!
“So I didn’t mind it too much but when I gave him a wee bit back he didn’t like it. If you’re going to start giving it out you have to expect to get a bit back but he just couldn’t take it.
“It became very personal between us very quickly. I was actually quite surprised by just how personal he got and the kind of things he was saying about my family.
“But I’m a big boy. If he wants to go down that road then I’m happy enough to go there too. I’ll always give as good as I get.
“He wanted to drag me into a battle and I was quite happy to oblige him. I think I came out of it on top and he knows it.
“I don’t want to go into detail about what he said about my family. It was crude and it was vulgar but that’s up to him. Yes, I did respond to him but what did he expect?”