Written by John Cassin @iammrc
Everybody who follows football will be aware of the esteem in which European nights at Celtic Park are held. Some of the games modern day greats have spoken of the atmosphere; Messi, Ronaldo, Buffon, Ibrahimovic, Eto to name a few. So when I had the opportunity to experience it myself I jumped at the chance.
Work commitments meant I needed to be in Glasgow for 3 days and I knew a limited number of seats had become available due to Cluj not taking their full allocation. Ticket booked, £29 bargain for European football, I was then able to schedule my Glasgow appointments for the week.
As a Celtic fan I thought it would be in order to avail myself of the full match day experience. With this in mind I worked in a relatively early finish so that I could visit a local hostelry for pre-match refreshments. A quick search revealed the local Celtic bars as choosing the wrong pub round here could be a bad life choice.
On arrival at the Brazen Head in the Gorbals it was obvious from the outside that this was a Irish / Celtic themed Bar.
On entry the place decked out in football memorabilia and was already in full flow. An Irish duo were belting out some classic Irish Folk tunes, as they say “Let the people sing……” and that they did. Singing, clapping, banging on tables as everybody joined in. All pints priced at £2.70 meant there was no shortage of lubrication for the vocal chords. Even when the band took a short break, the speakers continued with some more modern pop music all of which features in Celtic terrace chants, Zombie Nation, Just can’t get enough, Logical Song all kept the place in full voice.
It was also refreshing to see that the long tradition of selling hats, scalves and badges is still evident as a very popular gent wandered through with his wares. This has long become a thing of the past at many grounds.
Walking up to the ground there was also a number of itinerant sellers shouting “Hats, Scalves and all your badges”.
As you approach, you notice that Celtic Park doesn’t have the traditional 4 floodlights in the corners of the ground so it isn’t noticeable from a great distance. Instead, the lighting is inside the ground.
Considering the issues with pyro at football grounds I was quite surprised to note a lack of searches / pat-downs taking place. The only searches seemed to be of bags.
Once inside, you notice the ground itself features a three-sided curved structure alongside a more traditional main stand. The atmosphere is somewhat muted as fans arrive, most are discussing the days sport news or the team selection or last weeks game. However, at around 15 minutes to kick off, the ground is full and an announcement is made that the Celtic Light Show is about to commence. The stadium is plunged into near darkness as we are treated to what can only be described as a Disco Light Show set to music as ‘Zombie Nation’ booms out.
As the light show ends it’s time for the traditional rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone. As this finishes it’s time for the Green Brigade to unfurl a Tifo “AIN’T NOTHING WRONG WITH GOING DOWN, IT’S STAYING DOWN THAT’S WRONG”, in reference to losing to Cluj in the Champions League qualifiers. This was accompanied by a small pyro display using strobe effects which will no doubt incur a fine from UEFA for pyrotechnics. From this point on I don’t think there was a moment when they weren’t singing or chanting, all directed by a guy with a megaphone and another on a drum. During the 90 minutes I don’t think one song was repeated, save for the current song of choice “I wanna be Edouard”. The hymn book included a minutes applause for a recently deceased fan, a rendition of “In the heat of Lisbon” sung on 67 minutes for the Lisbon Lions, Grace and my personal favourite “Uncle Nobby’s Steamboat”.
The game passed in the blink of an eye with Celtic dominating. My only criticism would be the lack of shots considering it was a very wet, slick surface. Scott Brown was man of the match, controlling everything in the midfield, Ryan Christie covered every inch of turf and the centre half pairing of Ajer and Jullien didn’t miss a header all night, James Forrest showed plenty of effort and endeavor but in my opinion his final ball was lacking tonight, the much criticised Boli Bolingoli had his best game so far in the hoops and is growing in confidence with every game. A comfortable 2-0 victory with associated UEFA win bonus meant everybody except the small band of approximately 30 Cluj fans left with a smile on their faces.
A wet walk back to the hotel and time over a pint (or four) to discuss the nights events and the season ahead with likeminded Celtic Fans who had travelled from far and wide for the game.
I’ve been to many games over the last 40 plus years, many grounds, league games at various levels, semi-finals, finals, internationals and taking stock of the evening it’s obvious that this isn’t just a football club, it’s a way of life, a club like no other. This is probably the best atmosphere and club side I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing.
In short, anybody who follows football should try and experience a European night at Paradise.