Football is one of the few universal languages in our world: it has the power to unite people in a passionate and unparalleled way. It can supplant life in some sections of our society and it can reward us emotionally in greater ways than we care to admit.
Looking back over the decades of my life following Celtic I can honestly say there have more good times than the bad.
Now this will definitely age me, I can recall the first time I saw Celtic. It was at Cathkin Park [1960-61 season] against Third Lanark though I can’t remember the score [I think we lost…they finished third that year] just the noise and the stench of cigarette smoke and urine. My Dad took me…he reasoned with my Mum that it would be a ‘safe game’ to go to and as my Dad didn’t have a car, we could walk from Govanhill. On the way back I was cautioned not to mention the toilet habits of our fellow supporters or my Mum would ban me from ever going again.
My excitement that day still lives with me and even now I get that same sense of anticipation and glow when I journey to any of the games.
Another seminal moment in my football supporting life was the 1963 Real Madrid – Eintracht Frankfurt European Cup Final. I was in awe of the football that night. That was my first really big football night. What a stadium Hampden was with its steep terraces and giant floodlight pylons. A magical place and it was owned by Queens Park! How could they afford it I used to wonder?
In my lifetime I have seen Celtic grow from being not even the second best team in Scotland to become the best and then the best in Britain and Europe. Yes my Dad took me to Lisbon too. I have watched them achieve international fame and infamy and back again as our beautiful club slipped back down the global rankings. But we never lost the faith.
Today it’s all about money and brands if we are to survive on ‘Planet Football’ and the number of football brands seems to be consolidating as the TV contracts become bigger. The big boys get richer and the wee guys get marginalised in this world of sport. According to Brandirectory, a US based sports marketing agency, Man U are the biggest global sports brand, bigger than any of their NFL, NBA or NHL franchises. Football is truly a global game.
Sitting in New York, where I travel to frequently on business, I am spell bound by Fox Soccer and its spin on ‘football’. The format is basically the same the obligatory anchorman and the couple of football pundits. Today it was Warren Barton. They talk about “three to two’ victories in “game 17” but by and large the language is pretty much the same. Their ‘uber’ enthusiasm is certainly addictive. They even managed to make the Man City – Reading post match analysis exciting.
Imagine my pride this week as I watched a re-run of Celtic versus Barca right there on Fox Soccer and following that up announcing: “Soccer’s Next Young Star” a new series launching in January filmed at Celtic AND you can watch the Celtic games by signing up to Fox Soccer Plus. North America the home of the brave, the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS featuring our wee club, this ‘pub team’ as the English media like to call us.
It blows my mind. We might just be on the way back to the top table after all. Why? Well because the great global game is coming to terms with its need to grow its own talent if we wish to compete with the big boys. We need to be spotting “soccer’s next young star” and be like Barcelona and grow our own.
At Celtic we have always had that culture the only problem was we lost our way chasing the Ibrox dragon as it burned its way through cash and Scotland’s football integrity.
We know that our leaders made some shocking errors of judgement and didnt have courage to stick to the principles of the club and respect its heritage. However we have the best home fan base in Scotland, recognised and respected around the world. Welcomed by all for our colour, our joy, our enthusiasm and good sportsmanship and a passionate belief in our destiny. Yes frequently we’ve been kicked in the head by lady luck and fate has scorned us but we are still here, still fighting and still singing.
Along the way our club administrators might have lost the faith at times BUT WE NEVER DID!
Happy Holidays and Hail Hail