International Break Best Ever Game Series – The 6 -2
We find these international breaks terrible boring and tend to wander down memory lane during the sojourn .
The last series seen the best ever 11 player series and was popular indeed . Hopefully this one entertains you all also .
Should you fancy telling us all of a fav game we would be delighted to host you firstname.lastname@example.org
So I have mentioned before that I can count the number of games I have attended on both hands . The reasons for this ,,, dad refused to take me over when younger and most of my 20’s was spent in the same job that begrudged me a mere 2 weekends off per year and I usually insisted on one of those in sunnier climes , although I avoid direct sunlight bigtime ironically .
Why dad didnt take me over you might be wondering ,,, the boat that brought fans from both side of the divide over the water to attend was called the cattle boat and it had previously been in use in the Low countries .
I was told it was basically a long , low ceiling box room with no windows . You were allowed to bring a carry out onboard . There were drains in the floor from its previous occupation .
The usual one team at home one team away rule applied so rival fans didnt clash , but on derby day each side would put its “ heavies “ in a line down the middle in an attempt to stem carnage .
If you could imagine the scene , cigarettes very popular back then ( of course no air conditioning or smoke removal system ) ,, men getting hammered and peeing on the floor in the direction of a drain ,, the wacky backy on the go .
It wasnt a good place for a kid , also a man needs a day off by himself sometimes .
And then the songs ,,, the troubles were full steam ahead at that stage and bringing a youngun over to east Glasgow to where the stadium is singing in support of armed resistance can only help push them towards that struggle ,,, and no father wants their child imprisoned or worse .
The late 80’s ( basically after Fergus rebuilt the park and there where many more seats plus the new season book system ) or so seen a new boat and a sanitization of the process ,, and family trips became the norm . I recall the Seacat was a cracker of a boat ,, yanked for a more profitable route but she was state of the art at the time , a very smooth ride , numerous eateries including kid friendly MacD’s , and the smoking ban helped move things towards a more enjoyable experience for youth in particular , although many wives began to accompany the men when there was a ( much needed ) change in what was acceptable .
Around 97 or so I was working downtown Belfast in a bar restaurant of local staff when an Italian fella walks in after seeing the sign in the window and within a couple days had a start in the place . I was happy enough to hear the new accent , seemed a decent chap , and we are talking food and wine etc when he tells me no set plans , always dreamed of visitin the Emerald Isle , seen the sign and thought lets give this mad city a shot . When he got the job he had went on a days hunt to find digs and had rented a room and was settling in .
“ Where abouts ? “ I ask . “ Beersbridge road East Belfast “ he tells the staff to stunned silence . I tried to explain to him , we all tried , there where rules ,, an Italian cant live there and certainly dont go for a pint and just start talking to locals ( which he was fond off ) ,, he refused to believe me as he had never experienced anything like this .
After a few weeks , he slowly came to realise the people around him wouldnt talk to him , looked at him dirty , and then a slabbering match , few digs swung when him and his visiting mate went out for a couple .
Any time up the west of the city though was a totally different deal,,, a smile greeted him , maybe a few friendly questions , a pint bought ,,, the people were happier and open to a stranger, a well intentioned stranger that is.
The Guinness was better ( I swear ) and then when we hit the local bars after work to watch the team play , he seen the community come together , the love for the team , and liked the characters that he met .
However a local colleen had obviously not heard the stories about Italian waiters and had convinced him to move in with her around the city center area .
Around the same time I had bought a place with my own lady.
About a year later both of us found ourselves single again though I kept the house , and naturally he moved in .
Thus was born a fantastic couple of years , mid to late 20’s , big house with yer drinking partner and soon best mate , my ma around the corner , smack bang in the west . They were great times . Many a heart was broken between them walls, not all men either !
The oul fella by this stage had joined the new local Csc St Michaels , bought his season book , and had access to tickets via this season ticket as the club always had a few spares by just giving a blanket number , not the exact .
I remember a couple of weeks before this particular game watching ad’s hyping it up ,, and saying to the mate we should go and he replied lets do it . I counted my dosh and could afford it . That was it , it was on ! One phone call to thoul fella and we had two tickets . It was that easy .
I had already been a couple times and had yet to taste victory can you believe . First game Laudrup just seemed to waltz the length of the entire pitch and slot home the only goal of the game . The next a very good Viduka opener had been cancelled out .
The Italian had never been to that ground but was bursting at the seems to experience this .
I had a strong feeling it was to be third time lucky and couldnae wait myself .
Martin had announced in public that he just wanted to close the gap,, yeah right ,, everyone smiled when they heard that and knew exactly what was going on . Everyone but “ the little General “ that is.
Anyway , that Italian would go on to be my best man , and we are still in daily contact , so I gave him plenty notice and asked him to reminisce about that day and stick it down for everyone and eternity .
Beppe is a fella from Venice and heres his first Celtic game experience .
Ps Martin is my da , Im Stevie and the old man he refers to is Leo Mc Cauley , well known in the west and president / founder of St. Michaels Csc. Enjoy , Beppe will pop in later to check for comments.
Early in the morning, a dry and light morning in the Falls, with the typical cold Irish breeze which will wake you up if coffee didn’t do it yet.
I have been living with my best friend Stevie in Andy Town for a while now, but this is a special day. The Irish are taking me, the “Italian” to Paradise.
Martin, the patriarch now, is a man of few words in the morning but he has already plenty to smile for and a wardrobe full of stories for us, if we are patient enough to let him complete the morning tasks.
The first one is to go and collect the President of the Celtic Fan Club of West Belfast, an elderly man with the passion and energy of a young boy entering a candy shop.
Even if I hadn’t been excited enough about the prospect of watching the game, my first time at Celtic Park, well these guys would have had plenty of their own to get me started.
In the car, on the way to the Harbour, Stevie tells me few initial details about the day, while the two old buddies get into some conversation about todays’ game or maybe an old one. It doesn’t really matter, we are all firing up steadily and surely for what lies ahead.
If I never made to the game, the boat trip would have probably be a good enough experience…..
The sea was calm, but a huge wave of green and white shirts was moving inside, a disorderly organised motion, up and down the ferry, overwhelmingly nice to witness.
And I can still recall what might face might have looked like when Martin put some cash in my hand (I don’t think I ever open my wallet once when Martin was around) and ask me to get a “tray of beers”…..”Yes, a tray. Just fit as many pints as you can on the tray and come back”.
I looked at my watch and it wasn’t 8am, yet….on the 27th of August 2000, a day I will always remember, as the day I went to Paradise.
As we stumbled out of the boat, with a seasick type of walk that had little to do with the sea, we made our way to the Bus taking us through the Scottish country side and into Glasgow.
And what a country side, for some one who never seen it before, a glimpse of the famous mountains, thick woodland and those unique beaches, a golden primordial sight.
In the bus the vibe was great but nowhere near as great and loud as the noise of all the conversations going on at the same time amongst the fans as we near the gate of heaven.
And the we arrived…
I was just a little over my 26th birthday. My first real experience with a football game of that magnitude. Celtic playing Rangers. The derby. The mother of all battles.
I had been at other stadiums and other games, but nothing like that. And now I was few yards away from Celtic Park, making my way amongst a crowd of green and white flags. The closer we got to the gate, the faster we walked, our blood pumping to our hearts faster, as soldier going to battle.
Whoop-pe-do through the gates, proudly showing my ticket, following my friend and my new friends to the designated area where the show was about to begin.
As I walked up the large steps, a lump in my throat. Through my feet, up to my ears. I just about managed to push it down, back to the cold concrete when I reached the top and looked down at the ground and the rest of the stadium: here’s that lump again but this time it turns into a smile…I made it. Now the noise of the fans is just a fairway soundtrack and I can clearly hear Stevie telling me about the history of the place, what we should have expected and the inevitable victory I was going to witness. Everyone knew what to do, as actors with a script. I remember behind me there was a wall and a man standing with his back at us, facing the wall, as if he was looking at something beyond it…nah, just one too many for the old man. And he wasn’t the only one who started celebrating too soon… The speaker turn….Jonathan Gould, Paul Lambert, Jackie McNamara, Mahe, Valgaeren, Petta, Moravcik, Petrov, Sutton, Stubbs and…….. Henrik Larsson, one the best player I ever seen on a pitch.
What a Team. Young Jackie… Stevie taught me a song about him that I still remember and sing, 18 years after that day. I knew all of them, Stevie and I watched them on TV many times but this was real, there and then, and against the Rangers…So everything was different, the size of the pitch, the noise, the sky, the colours, smells, the vibe and that distinct sense of happiness for being there, with your friend, in Paradise.
I do not know nor I can recall how long we waited for the referee to blow the whistle but I do remember enjoying every minute of it, amazed and amused by everything was going on around me. Stevie told me about the place and how the Celtic fans were the best in the world but then again everyone says so. Well. I had been at the Bernabeu, San Siro, Olimpico but nothing compared to this. They were in deed the best fans in the world. A roar that was music, music that was magic, songs, laughter, cheers, all shaping into a mesmerising and welcoming hug. I sang lyrics I did not know, had full conversation with Scottish guys telling me “you are not from frecking Italy” – clearly my transformation was working – and overall felt a childish incontrollable happiness as I thought “This what football is about and that is now a game should be”. The old man was still cheering at the brick wall and I still do not know what game was going on up there, but by then, even he made sense, even he fitted in.
I had been captured by that mystery, whilst I watched people eating, talking, drinking, crying, cheering and shouting. And I looked at my closest friend, the gang I came with, as the level of excitement raised, discussing injuries and merit of that and the other player.
And suddenly the whistle went. For the next 90 minutes everyone there from the age of 2 to 92 supported their heroes like I did not think was possible, breathlessly following each phase
of the game as if it was the last, fearless and encouraged by the guy beside, behind, ahead and everyone else around. Goose bumps.
Celtic on the attack, one minute maybe gone, Sutton…1-0
Could my first time get better….? I thought no but I was wrong. Within 10 minutes Petrov and Lambert had added 2 and I had the fortune to see Henrik scoring twice. 6-2 the final score. Hypnotic heroic stuff from the bhoys in green.
Paradise exploding at each goal, a sound could be heard on a 10 miles radius around us.
I could not ask for a better day , my grandchildren will learn of it .
Guest post by Beppe