Celtic are facing a win-or-go-home scenario when they host AC Milan in Tuesday evening’s Champions League group stage match. A win could see Celtic catapulted into second place; a loss would effectively eliminate the Hoops from this season’s European competition.
For those who haven’t seen a Champions League match from Celtic Park, you may only have one more chance to do it this season. This may be difficult for American viewers because FOX (in all its wisdom) has elected to leave the match off its television schedules on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2.
(Editors note- Celtic v. AC Milan will be broadcast on Fox Soccer Plus)
On a Champions League night, Celtic Park is arguably the best atmosphere in all of Europe. For years, Celtic’s home support has been hailed for its passion and pageantry on big occasions. It starts with the banners and mosaic surrounding the ground, continues with the team entrances, and is followed by Celtic supporters’ awe-inspiring rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Throughout the match, the noise inside the legendary Scottish ground reaches deafening levels as the Bhoys fans literally shake the stands with their renditions of “I Just Can’t Get Enough” and “Come on you Bhoys in Green”.
Prior to last season’s Champions League quarterfinal, Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo compared Parkhead to a “gladiator arena”. When asked about his best experience as a player, Michael Owen (ex-Liverpool, Man U, Newcastle and Real Madrid striker) said: “The best atmosphere I ever played in was at Celtic Park in the UEFA Cup for Liverpool.” And this year, Gerard Pique added his thoughts on playing at the home of the Glasgow giants: “It’s always tough to win away games in the Champions League and the atmosphere at Celtic Park is the best in Europe.”
A travelling Barcelona supporter was interviewed prior to this season’s Group Stage encounter at Celtic Park. The Catalan fan had been to the 2012-13 Champions League match between Celtic and Barcelona; this is what he said:
“Before going to Glasgow some people from Catalonia told me that Celtic fans were awesome. I tried to think how it could be – but when you are there is so much more than you can imagine. I didn’t see the match, anything. I couldn’t stop looking the Celtic stands, I couldn’t stop filming everything. But the best moment was immediately after the match, a rain of Celtic scarfs started over our heads. I gave my scarf to somebody, my estelada (independentist flag of Catalonia) to some other. I’d been in a lot of stadiums and I’d never seen anything like this before.”
He also posted this video which quickly went viral:
On June 9th 2010, after finally being named full-time manager of Celtic Football Club, former Hoops star Neil Lennon stood in front a pool of reports and revealed his ambitions: “I want to bring the thunder back to this stadium – I want to make it rock again.”
Following his appointment, Lennon spoke of the moments he spent by himself inside the fabled ground shortly after his meeting with the Celtic board. His sentiment speak to how players and supporters feel about the legendary arena:
“I had the whole place to myself,” said Lennon as he retraced his steps all the way through the bowels of Parkhead, past the home dressing room and out to the mouth of the tunnel.
“It was dead still and there wasn’t a soul in the ground. I had never seen the stadium like that before. There was no light apart from the moon. I had never seen the place look so good.
“It was quite a special moment. The fact I had just become Celtic manager hadn’t really sunk in.
“I had only just concluded everything and walked down the tunnel to get a breath of fresh air.
“I suppose I was just feeling relieved. I stood there looking round the place and I was thinking of Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan and Mr Stein. I thought to myself, ‘I’m standing on the shoulders of giants now like!’
“I wouldn’t say it felt like a moment of destiny because I don’t want to put the kiss of death on it. But it was just a nice personal moment. I have walked down that tunnel hundreds of times before but I had never seen it as serene as that before.
“It felt like this is MY place now. This is MY paradise. Fans call it Paradise all the time and they have their own reasons for that – but this was mine.”
However you feel about Celtic as a club, their playing style, or their manager Neil Lennon; Tuesday night’s match is a ‘must see event’. It’s the reigning Scottish title holders playing for their Champions League lives against one of the legendary clubs in football, the Italian-giants AC Milan.
It could also be the last chance (this season) to hear Ian Crocker call a match from Parkhead on a European night. The renowned British pundit has been the voice for many Celtic fixtures and his game commentary is considered some of the best in Europe. The combination of a sold-out Celtic Park in full voice mixed with Crocker’s emotion-invoking narrative only adds to the ambience of the occasion.
Celtic has won eight of their last 11 European fixtures at Celtic Park; including the qualifying rounds. The Hoops’ all-time record in Glasgow during the UEFA Champions League Group Stages is formidable: 16 wins, 5 draws, 2 losses. Should Celtic beat the Rossoneri they would leap over the Italian club in the group standings; and if Barcelona take points from Ajax, Celtic would find itself in second place with one match remaining.
To say the atmosphere in Glasgow is going to be ‘energized’ on Tuesday night would be an understatement. Football viewers across the world should find a way to tune into what is destined to be another memorable European night.
Celtic Park will be rocking.