I was asked that question last week by Mr. Tom Allison, director at my beloved Celtic F.C.; he attended today’s Champion’s League game against Elsborg – incidentally, we’re through to the last bit before the group stages after making a real messy meal of it. (If you’re ever in Los Angeles, the LA Celtic F.C. Supporter’s Club shows games at Joxer Daly’s pub in Culver City on Washington Blvd.) Anyway, Mr. Allison and I were chatting, I told him I was moved by the horror of the Boston bombings to do the Honolulu marathon in my Hoops.
My initial answer to the question was I love Celtic F.C., whole family are Celtic daft, my life has been intertwined with Celtic for as long as I can remember – starting with a shared birthday – on the 28th May 1888, Celtic F.C. played and won their first game at the new Celtic Park – I was born quite a few years later – to becoming a physio because I wanted to be Celtic’s, was a regular at games – at 16, got into a huge argument with my short-lived boyfriend, who insisted on taking me to the seated section in the main stand; I wanted to be in the Jungle, where the most impassioned sang and danced. His friends thought it hysterical as they took off for the Jungle; once I got in the face of a big hairy Aberdeen fan who was squawking about Strachan taking Roy Aitken out of the game, he wished we were there too! I could have added that, in my youth, I hated my parents for making me a girl because that meant I could never play for Celtic F.C. or Scotland, and that, as legend goes, an ancient relative was a founding father of the club….so, Tom took my information and said he would see what he could do…maybe I’ll get a long-sleeved shirt out of it, or an article in the Celtic View and a platform to raise money for charity. Who knows what will happen? Maybe something. Maybe nothing. Time will tell…
Anyway, after the game, I went to the gym, and the question kept reverberating in my head. And it came to me that Celtic F.C., and thus by representation, the Hooped jersey, is more than a club, it signifies family, passion and love. For me, there is no feeling in the world like attending Celtic Park on match-day – particularly Champion’s League games.
Imagine a dark, cold night in Glasgow – (usually the rain starts during the game, so you’re resembling a drowned rat by the time you get home but dry on the way in) – after dinner in the City Centre – love the Mussel Inn – with whomever I’m going to the game with – (in recent years, my dad, mum, brother Gary, best pal Julie, and dear friend Atis) – we start the long, invigorating walk up to the stadium.
Leaving the bustle of the Merchant City, we are joined, more at every corner, by people, decked out in green and white. By the time we’re on the Gallowgate and moving east, throngs more are piling out of cars, buses and pubs, singing starts, taken up by hundreds and the pilgrimage has truly begun. We’re taking over the whole sidewalk and some of the road. The white glow of the floodlights rise through the gloom drawing us forward in unison. The tight formation of warm bodies negates the frigid night air as now thousands are now surging towards the stadium. We are halted by big queues at stern turnstiles; all you can do is shuffle impatiently forward, watch the monstrous police horses pacing, and listen to the party underway within the cauldron above, where nervous excitement and unbridled joy are mating.
Once inside, quadriceps burning from leaping up the steep staircases, you are released from the concrete labyrinth into the open air. The pitch is emerald-green, seats are filling rapidly until over 60,000 people are screaming and shouting and whistling as the team runs onto the emerald-green pitch. The music through the tannoy is obliterated by the wall of noise and energy until it culminates in an apocalyptic soul-felt rendition of ‘You’ll never walk alone,” green and white scarves held in the air, with one voice, we give life to our love, fire to our convictions and will the team to victory. The huddle breaks. We are the twelfth man. Game on. We are as one. Our energy lifts the players to be magnificent gladiators on the field of battle. Win, lose or draw, we will continue to sing and cry and support the men in the green and white hooped jerseys.
And no matter where you are on the planet, if you walk into a pub where they are showing a Celtic F.C. game, you will have an instant camaraderie with all there. You will feel the energy flowing from the fans to the 11 players on the park thousands of miles away. And, in non-Celtic pubs, watching a live game, I’ve created new fans; by jumping up and down and kissing everyone in sight, or cursing and becoming quieter and quieter in the corner, or discussing the game with a stranger at the bar – people get sucked into my world for 90 minutes. By the end, they are Celtic fans! This has happened in London, Las Vegas, Rome, Costa Rica, and Peru. And a big Thank You to all the Celtic F.C. Supporters Clubs around the world, who, over the years, have greeted me like long-lost family.
One that sticks out most: last year I was attending a workshop in another state, I called the president of the club to ask him if they were showing the league game that Sunday morning and the best way to get there from my hotel. We had never met or talked before but he offered to pick me up and drive me to the game to save me taxi money. I was welcomed as a prodigal daughter by the small band of diehard fans. Over the course of the game, between the banter and football talk, it came to light that the president had been at school/in the scouts with my dad in Glasgow when they were boys! Small world!!! That night, the president and his lovely wife, took me out to dinner and showed me around. A night I will never forget.
Celtic fans have class, passion, huge hearts, a love of life and are truly one big fun family. That is why I am running in my Hoops! And in December, in Honolulu, I will find a bar showing Celtic’s Champion’s League game, and watch us win our way through to the last 16 again, gaining more fans for the club along the way. Did I also mention that unwavering Faith is the sign of a true Celtic F.C. fan! Hail…hail…the Celts are here