There are certain special places and special occasions in sport that must be experienced to be appreciated.
Croke Park on the day of the All Ireland football final is definitely one of them.
The spectacle is wonderful.
“Croker” on that day is all that is good and uplifting about sport and what it can do for people.
Another such amphitheatre of affirmation is Celtic Park on a European night.
Before the match Helsingborgs coach, Åge Hareide, said:
“I’m looking forward to the game very much because this is one of the very best places to play football. I hope the players enjoy it. These are probably the best fans in Europe. This is why football will survive, because of teams like Celtic and the fans. In the rest of the world you see anger and bitterness. Football needs fans like this. If we aren’t in the Champions League it will be good for football that Celtic are there, because of the fans.”
After the match he was gracious and magnanimous.
“Celtic will get better and with this fantastic crowd behind them they could pick up points.”
I think the straight talking Norwegian meant every world of it.
People who love sport instinctively love the Parkhead crowd when they are on European duty.
The players on the pitch seem powered by the belief of the crowd to such an extent that they achieve what they themselves had dismissed as beyond them.
The supporter becomes the facilitator.
Now we know that our Catalan friends will visit and they will look forward to having a friendly invasion secure in the knowledge that their public spaces will be respected.
Lisbon will always have a special place in the hearts of Celtic fans and Benfica are old adversaries.
As a twelve year old I marvelled at the skill of Eusébio on a night were Celtic won 3-0 on their way to another European cup final in 1970.
Spartak Moscow will see the return of one of our own.
Aidan McGeady is now a seasoned professional and not the coltish kid who had to endure anti-Irish racism from Scottish crowds.
The last time the Russian team was at Celtic park both teams served up high drama in a penalty shootout.
In Section 113 I was as near as I have ever been to the Green Brigade in full flow.
Terms like “force of nature” come to mind.
I fully understand why Neil Lennon presented the SPL trophy to THEM.
Celtic enter the group stage of this competition with a tiny football budget compared to most of the other clubs.
Third place in this group is possible and this would give the Parkhead fans more European nights after Christmas.
These are great days for the Celtic family. The Parkhead outfit are clearly the most dominant, the most powerful club in Scotland. They have achieved total victory in the Glasgow fitba feud and did so by fair means.
Now Scotland is represented in the Champions League by the good guys. A corporate good citizen, we paid our taxes and paid our debts.
Celtic achieved a moral as well as a sporting victory over the now deceased city rivals.
Moreover the narrative of this club and how it came into existence is unique.
The worldwide Irish diaspora has something very special in Celtic Football Club.
I sometimes feel that it is the fans that first saw the light of day far away from Glasgow that have the bigger picture on the true cultural significance of Celtic.
This is a case of distance lending enhancement to the view.
Just after Victor Wanyama’s thumping header hit the back of the net the crowd went into Huddle mode and I felt the concrete beneath my feet literally tremble.
In Irish bars around the world the céilí was just starting.
This club can rock your world.
We’re the good guys and we won.