AMID the lethargy of another dreary international week, a little Celtic tale from a quarter of a century ago that came and went with little fanfare.

It started with a small ad in the classified section of Glasgow’s Evening Times newspaper. A group of women footballers from the city’s east end were seeking players for the new club they’d formed. Touchingly, the name paid homage to the greatest team ever assembled in Scottish football. These women called themselves The Lesbian Lions.

At this time I was the sports editor of Scotland on Sunday newspaper and had been tipped off about the advert. I was instinctively captivated by the name of the club and wished fervently that this was a genuine advert and not a spoof born of too many salvadors in an east end howff.

What wasn’t to like? As well as paying tribute to the Lisbon Lions it also venerated Celtic’s traditions of welcoming men and women of all beliefs and providing succour for those who had encountered oppression or discrimination.

And so we decided to enquire further about the advert and were told that the meeting-place for these women was an unpretentious wee tavern adjacent to Glasgow Cross in a downmarket and rudimentary arcade called The Schipka Pass.

Happily, they agreed to meet our man to discuss all those strands which had come together to inspire such a gloriously esoteric name. The chap we chose for the assignment was a freelancer called Raymond Travers who, quite literally, pitched up at the doorstep of Scotland on Sunday’s Glasgow office one afternoon with some interesting articles... an Athletic Bilbao away top and a tousy attitude.

Raymond wasn’t exactly what you would call a typical football writer. For starters he eschewed cheap suits and stained overcoats, preferring something more akin to a roadie for some northern rockers playing Digbeth Civic Hall. He also wrote wittily and peppered his reports with cultural references gained from years of wandering the planet looking to experience something of how other people lived their lives. He was a Hearts supporter but was sprung from a West of Scotland housing estate. Castlemilk, maybe, or Thornliebank. 

Later, he would travel to Bolivia to cover the Copa Libertadores for us. We struck a deal to pay the cost of his trip in return for some interesting and offbeat background features. Why? Well, 1) because we could and 2) because I fancied the idea of a bold strapline announcing to our readers that Scotland on Sunday was “Your first stop for quality South American football coverage”. It would also be considered somewhat gonzo and thus piss off the right people too.

For these reasons, and others, Raymond was the man to interview the Lesbian Lions in their den at the Schipka Pass on Glasgow Cross.

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This being the 1990s and most of us being white, heterosexual West of Scotland men there was a degree of trepidation about how to approach this interview and what to do with it. It’s not that we didn’t want to be edgy and progressive and diverse, just that our aspirations to be so were occasionally undermined by clumsy locutions born of ignorance. We were eager to get on board the 6pm train for Progressive Central but were sometimes caught with the 5pm ticket for Atavistic West. Thus we had to be careful and take advice from the paper’s arts section where they were much more accustomed to painting on a richer cultural tapestry.

Having despatched Raymond the following Friday evening to interview these women I waited eagerly for his check-in call. It came around midnight and it was immediately clear that our man, not wanting to appear aloof and formal, had accepted an invitation to spend more time with them than he’d perhaps originally intended. He was howling with the bevvy and indicated that his hosts had drunk him under the table and all the way to Glasgow Cross and back.

“So, two questions, Raymond,” I began to inquire nervously. “Are they genuine Celtic fans and are they, well, you know, are they actual lesbians?”

I asked this question simply because I didn’t want us to be accused of some form of encouraging sexual or cultural appropriation.

“Well,” said Raymond. “They all said they were, and short of being overly-intrusive about it, that’s good enough for me."

“Well, it’s good enough for me too.”

And so, fearful that The Evening Times or The Herald might twig to this little gem in their own Classified Section, I urged Raymond to write 900 words for that Sunday’s paper. We also got a brilliant picture of the women in their Celtic tops. 

I’d like to say that we were all proud of publishing an article that conveyed positive messaging about widening access and avoiding cultural and sexual stereotypes. And, yes, it was all of these things. But even more importantly, it was just a very warm and affectionate human story bringing together several tributaries not then viewed together very often.

There has been some debate about Celtic embracing the rainbow laces campaign to demonstrate the club’s support for diversity and its eagerness to send a positive message around discriminating against minorities.

There should be no debate: this chimes entirely with Celtic’s founding principles of providing aid and a home for people experiencing oppression and hostility.

So here’s to the Lesbian Lions, wherever they all are. And here’s to Raymond Travers, our punk, maverick Jambo.