Not represented in Europe last week

Last week must have felt painfully empty for Celtic supporters as the Group Stages of the two European competitions started, with the Parkhead club nowhere to be seen. Celtic had suffered the double ignominy of elimination in successive ties from first the Champions League and then the Europa League. They exited the top competition after a couple of docile performances against respectable opposition in Braga. Then against a moderate Utrecht they performed so cravenly that the Dutch club who had fully expected to be eliminated were able to grab the place in the Europa League Group Stages that had seemed to be Celtic’s for the asking.

Celtic supporters have always had a keen interest in European football, an interest fuelled by the club’s successes in the Stein era and sustained by regular European adventures ever since. The club attained great credibility with Final appearances in both major club competitions, most recently the UEFA Cup in 2003. 

Celtic fans - the friendliest in Europe

Celtic supporters used the opportunity to travel widely in Europe accompanying their team to create a top reputation of their own, as the friendliest and best behaved supporters in the world. The objective truth of this claim was confirmed by awards from both FIFA and EUFA following their friendly takeover of Seville in 2003.

Celtic supporters have been welcomed and appreciated wherever they have gone. Their trip to Villarreal in 2004 lead directly to the formation of a 700 strong Celtic Submari supporters Club in Villarreal dedicated to sustaining close and lasting  links with Celtic and its supporters.

 

While St Pauli in Hamburg have made friends all over the world with their special commitment to values based on anti-Nazism, anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-homophobia, they have created a special affinity with Celtic fans because of the recognition of shared values represented by the Celtic support.

 Recent changes to the UEFA Country and Club co-efficients systems mean that it will be even harder for Celtic to qualify for the Champions League next season. Even if they are Scottish champions in 2010-11 they would have to get through two qualifying rounds, at least one against a higher rated club. Second place in the Scottish League will no longer bring any opportunity to qualify for the Champions League.

 Greengreenworld(GGW) feels it is very important that Celtic fans do not respond to their disappointment and disillusionment at these recent qualification failures by turning their backs on the European and World club scene but instead commit themselves to retaining a keen and informed interest. GGW will dedicate itself to helping Celtic supporters maintain an informed interest by providing regular reports on both European Club competitions as well as detailed reports from 5 clubs of special interest to Celtic supporters across the world.

When you are eliminated from a tournament there is always some positive consolation when your conquerors do well, and a more complicated and perverse satisfaction when they do badly. That syndrome was one of the two reasons why all Villarreal supporters were fully behind Zenit St Petersburg in the 2008 UEFA Cup Final in Manchester. So GGW will provide regular reports on on how Braga and Utrecht do in the Champions League and Europa League respectively.

Celtic and Villarreal - friends for ever

In addition GGW will provide regular reports of the European progress on Celtic’s favourite Spanish club, Villarreal as they seek to win the Europa League. GGW knows that ever since the incredible friendship between Villarreal and Celtic supporters started in 2004, a fair number of Celtic supporters have closely followed Villarreal’s continued adventures in Europe, especially when Celtic are no longer in contention. For my book on Villarreal I have interviewed many Celtic supporters who have gone to Villarreal’s European games in both the Champions League and UEFA Cup over the past few seasons, either at El Madrigal or in accessible away games in England or Western Europe. With Celtic out already, a fair number of Celtic fans will use the money they put aside to follow Celtic in Europe to give their support to the Yellow Submarine. Details of the Group Stage games and venues are given in the last GGW post “Villarreal the Good and Bad news”. Details of Villarreal’s opening match in the Europa League will be given in the next GGW post “Villarreal – Fiesta joy turns sour”.

The other favourite European team of Celtic supporters, St Pauli have made a reasonable start to their attempt to consolidate themselves in the Bundesliga after last season’s hard won promotion. GGW will provide regular reports over the next few months on the progress of this struggle for survival, to see if a club with such values can survive in the mercenary and ruthless environment.

Hangzhou Greentown stadium - Where the Chinese green and white team play

GGW knows from the positive response to its earlier articles, that many Celtic supporters have adopted Hangzhou Greentown the club captained by Du Wei and that play in green and white, as their Chinese team. At the start of the season it looked as if Greentown would have a difficult time avoiding the bottom two spots they inhabited the previous season only avoiding relegation because two of the clubs that finished above them were removed from the league for corruption. But under Du Wei’s inspired leadership they have steadily climbed up the table and are currently 4th, occupying one of the slots for next season’s Asian Champions League. GGW will provide regular reports on how they do in pursuit of this ambitious goal.

 

 

Many Celtic supporters were stunned by the ease with which Arsenal destroyed Braga to the tune of 6 goals to nil. The Braga team that faced Arsenal was actually significantly stronger than the one that disposed of Celtic. With the money assured by qualification following the victories over Celtic and Sevilla they invested in quality players like goalkeeper Felipe from Brazilian league leaders Corinthians, Uruguayan defensive midfielder Luis Aguair and creative midfielder Hugo Viana as well as a couple of other squad players, Elton and Custudio. Yet this reinforced Braga side was brushed aside dismissively by Arsenal in a way that demonstrated the correctness of the GGW assertion that Braga were not that good a team. So what that says about Celtic is a matter best not pursued too rigorously.

In the Europa League Celtic’s surprised conquerors, FC Utrecht acquitted themselves reasonably well gaining an away draw in Naples and setting themselves up to have a good chance to make the top two in the Group.

Next week GGW will provide fuller previews of both Braga and Utrecht before their second Group games, as well as detail of Villarreal’s crucial home game against FC Bruges