EDL – Shameless Bastards!

 EDL leader arrested

By ‘Malatesta

On Saturday, Tommy Robinson of the EDL held what he called a charity walk but which was in fact a bout of shameless self-publicity and a media grab that fed his nasty little ego for another week but failed to give a much needed boost to his failing and splintered organisation. Tommy had applied to plod for permission for his ‘Charity Walk’ which Scotland Yard denied and told him in no uncertain terms, in a widely distributed document, that he would be arrested, if he entered the East End.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?…01075574.30539.161167380652003&type=1&theater
Here’s a tip: if plod issues a letter telling you they will arrest you if you do something, and you do it, don’t complain when they arrest you. By doing precisely this Robinson got his weekly media fix and so he could disingenuously claim to be some sort of martyr. As opposed to a serial criminal with a long police record. When Robinson contravened the order and was promptly arrested he was luckily accompanied by several TV camera crews all vulturing over him for some easy pickings.

Robinson had said he was going to walk from Marble Arch to Woolwich via the East London Mosque to ‘commemorate’ Lee Rigby the soldier who was murdered recently. Apart from the fact that it was highly unlikely he could manage more than a couple of miles, what an inflammatory trip via the mosque had to do with Lee Rigby’s ‘memory’ is anyone’s guess. The little Muppet set off with cousin Beaker and was shadowed by 3 plod vans and our intrepid reporter from EDL News. After barely 10 minutes they stopped off for a McDonald’s – which shows they had no intention of doing the full stretch: greasy fried food is not good for long distance walking. After stuffing their faces they set off again only this time losing their rather overweight cameraman who couldn’t match their bovine pace and dropped further and further behind. We eventually saw him again in Woolwich getting a parking ticket outside Wetherspoon’s. Well done. As the Muppets entered Aldgate there was a confrontation with two anti-fascists which caused Tommy to start whining ‘arrest them! arrest them!’ as the police arrested him.

This film shows that KKKev hit out first.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xV-hPh-jz-4

Robinson was dragged off to the plod van where his vain delusions of martyrdom could hatch. In case you don’t know, the charity for which he was embarrassing had rejected him and the EDL’s money as toxic (Help 4 Heroes also rejected EDL money) so his march was not for a sick girl but for a sick boy desperate for column inches. The Rigby family have also publicly distanced themselves from Robinson.

Meanwhile, we headed off to Woolwich where the Armed Services Day was in full swing. After searching the area we came across a group of 20 anti-fascists but very few EDL. As we headed back into Woolwich we found the EDL unsurprisingly kettled by plod in Wetherspoon’s. They didn’t get the chance to lay flowers in memory of Rigby as the Army barracks didn’t want them hijacking the day and so their mission completely failed. Instead, they did what they do best: got pissed on cheap lager. Well done.
http://via.me/-cytiv9y

So all in all not a great day for the EDL: leaders arrested; followers denied laying flowers; poor turnout and all round recrimination from right and left for Robinson’s shameless hijacking of Armed Forces Day, Rigby’s murder and the little girl’s charity with even some halfwit bugles from the far right Casuals claiming that he is a ‘f***ing attention seeking, money grabbing parasite.’ Well said you wee arsespangle!
http://twitpic.com/czw86n

As was intended the EDL foot and mouth soldiers immediately started whinging, claiming that the police were enforcing Sharia law – which was almost as good as when they referred to David Cameron as ‘a cultural Marxist’ (whatever that means). The EDL balloons also claimed that Whitechapel is a ‘no-go area’ for non-Muslims. Sorry fellers but anyone who cares to stroll up Brick Lane for a fine salt beef bagel, stop for a pint in one of the many bars or perhaps even do a wee bit of shopping in Spitalfields will tell you that this is a blatant and absolute lie by made up by people who have obviously never even been there.
http://twitpic.com/czu0ee

Despite Robinson getting plenty of publicity this week, the EDL completely failed to mobilise any significant numbers on the day or indeed organise much beyond a round at ’Spoons. Be seeing you!

It’s only a friendly

Kellys_Eye

by Kelly’s Eye

Over the course of last week, Brentford FC made the announcement that they were suspending ticket sales to Celtic fans as they could not cope with the overwhelming demand for tickets. As the week reached its latter half, Celtic announced that no tickets will be made available on the day of the match and remaining ticket sales, only available in the Bill Axbey stand; will be sold exclusively to season ticket holders. Non season ticket holders, particularly those living down south, are now beginning to purchase tickets in the home end. It is astounding that a fixture, not exactly enthralling, in the lead up to the 2013/2014 season, is capable of attracting so many supporters. Then I remember what a special club I am talking about, one with a unique support, renowned for generating an ear splitting atmosphere in great numbers – no matter the occasion or where the location.

Throughout the week, I kept an eager eye on ticket news and finally relaxed on Friday, when much to my delight, I was fortunate enough to hear the sound of tickets in the terracing section of the Brook Road Stand, fall on my doormat. Over the last few days with the excitement building, I have been reminiscing over some of the great friendlies and testimonials of the modern era. These ‘money spinners’ have often left great memories both on and off the park for me.

giggs3Perhaps the best testimonial that I can recall is from Old Trafford for Ryan Giggs’ in 2001. This was a real tempestuous, fast paced affair. United, littered with galactics ranging from Roy Keane to the then debutant Ruud Van Nistelrooy, were outplayed by the hoops and found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-3 scoreline. After just 70 seconds, Didier Agathe skinned Phil Neville before sliding a low driven cross into the path of the poised Chris Sutton, who got his body positioned well over the ball to duly dispatch a by no means simple chance. Just two minutes later, Neil Lennon stole possession from another newcomer Sebastian Veron, and played a slick one two with king Henrik, before slotting in a rare neat finish and doubling Celtic’s lead! The 15,000 travelling fans (officially, although with the inclusion of those in the home end, the estimated figure was as high as 23,000) were sent into delirium and milking the moment.

giggs2Even some quick feet from Roy Keane before laying on a sitter for Van Nistelrooy to net his first of many United goals, could not dampen the Celtic fans spirits; as they continued to robustly enjoy the sing song. Sutton and Neville, then Lennon and Scholes were soon eyeball to eyeball in two aggressive ‘handbag’ exchanges as temperatures begun to rise. David Beckham became the target of fishing from the Celtic support as they enjoyed dangling the rod, fully equipped with bait, in an amusing verbal lashing of Beckham. This was merited however, for moments earlier Jackie McNamara had landed a fine tackle on David but he proceeded to shove him in the chest before violently kicking out at Chris Sutton. Cue the chants of ‘Argentina’ from the away support – no doubt a jibe at his similar misdemeanour at the World Cup some years earlier. The referee was certainly generous in not administering a red card, perhaps the fixture being billed a ‘friendly’ influenced his leniency on this occasion.

giggs1

In the 29th minute Beckham put the cherry on the cake for Celtic fans after a careless pass allowed Europe’s golden boot winner, Henrik Larsson to fend off three red shirts before squaring to Paul Lambert. Paul side footed a finesse strike that found its way into Barthez’s bottom left corner.

Mid-way through the second half, Veron showed just why Sir Alex Ferguson had paid £28.1m to acquire his services, with a sweet volley into the top corner from long range. The hoop’s replied swiftly though. A free kick was awarded in Lubo territory. Need I say the outcome? In the interests of accuracy I will confirm that the magician Moravcik curled a right footed free kick from the left edge of the box, rising beyond the wall and elegantly dipping out-with the reach of the stationery Fabian Barthez! To round off the day Van Nistelrooy netted once more to gain his brace and Beckham was substituted to the sound of 20,000 jeers outweighing the 47,000 adulating voices. Full time – Manchester United 3-4 Celtic a great scoreline and a fine atmosphere to match.

norwich1

After much thought I have chosen the second friendly of the recent era to write about, just slightly better than our 2-0 victory over Spurs at Wembley in 2009, as the game on 22nd May 2012 at Carrow Road, a testimonial for Adam Drury. This decision made purely based on the carnage in the stands and the birth of ‘Don’t Sell McCourt.’

It was a day of fine Anglican sunshine and 4,000 Celtic fans made the trip to Norwich for an encounter taking place ten days after our season had ended: this all the more commendable when you consider that it was a Wednesday evening match. The Celtic team fielded was very much experimental and the game was rather dull. In reality Norwich never got out of second gear and strolled to a 2-0 victory.

juniorcapoAs usual the Celtic support managed to create a party, overshadowing the game itself. Indeed this was the case in this instance and Norwich fans seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. A sea of green white filled the pubs and areas roundabout the stadium, appearing to systematically run through our array of songs. Both sets of fans were seen singing together and the chant ‘one Paul Lambert’ seemed to connect the two supports. As kick off was approaching a large number of Celtic fans began crowding around a young lad held aloft – acting as junior capo! It was electric and something canaries’ fans’ were stunned by.

With more and more of the 4,000 tims clicking through the turnstiles, the earlier mentioned carnage seemed to reach a greater level. Under the stand, where Norwich City FC staff were accustomed to serving the odd pie and pushing the boat out a Bovril, Celtic supporters decided to belt out ‘Don’t sell McCourt, Paddy McCourt I just don’t think you understand, that if you sell McCourt, Paddy McCourt, your gonna’ have a riot on your hands’ to the tune of ‘Achy breaky heart’. Pint in hand, voice box in overdrive and feet springing such that a hurdler would be proud, the bhoys did not stop. It truly was incredible and the song was catching on a treat.

Once the action had begun, Celtic continued to sing in adoration of their underused hero. The visuals on display were equally as sublime. We indulged in some heartfelt renditions of rebellious songs and those remembering our Irish heritage, no doubt unpopular with the home support but nevertheless they did not air any complaints! At this time, confirmation of Oldco ranger’s liquidation was imminent and thus the repeated chanting of ‘Having a party when rangers die’ only added to the euphoria and raised the volume until the pinnacle of racket. Nothing new to us, but jaw dropping to the opposing fans, the right hand side of the Celtic end roared ‘Celtic’ for the left hand side to return the cry, ‘C’mon you Bhoys in Green’  – you know the drill. This was maintained for several minutes and received rapturing applause from the home section.

With 57 minutes on the clock Celtic begun to perform the huddle in tribute to the death of the now defunct rangers FC, after a bit of light hearted jeering serving as encouragement, the whole of Carrow Road was soon joining the Celtic section in the huddle. A great sight. To close with this game, the final ten minutes featured relentless singing of ‘Don’t Sell McCourt’, this consistent fantastic chant could only be met with applause by the Norwich end and possibly the finest tribute came during the 86th minute when John Hartson, commentating on the match, simply laughed and said ‘outstanding again’. At full time the tannoy aired ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, a chant that both supports indulge in; before a closing gesture of playing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ that Norwich fans to their credit joined in with. A fantastic away day and one of the very best in recent times; domestic and European matches included!

Passion Play

Kellys_EyeWe welcome a new contributor to TAL. In his first article for the blog Kelly’s Eye gives the view of a new generation of Celtic supporters who want to see the same passion, commitment and understanding of Celtic’s history from the players on the pitch as is shown by the supporters in the stands.

by Kelly’s Eye

On Sunday, 26th May, Celtic eased aside Hibernian in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden. A fantastic 3D display, offered courtesy of the equally as impressive: Green Brigade, was the sight greeting the Celtic team. The atmosphere was electric; the kind that only Celtic supporters are capable of generating. Fortunately it was of the ilk that Celtic fans have been accustomed to, on big occasions, over the years. ‘Broad black brimmer’ ‘Irish soldier laddie’ and ‘Boys of the old brigade’ all got a rare airing. To match the republican singing, party tunes and Celtic football songs were in full flow. It was a day full of passion and pride; highlighting exactly what much of the Celtic support stands for.

That evening the official Celtic YouTube page uploaded a few clips of behind the scenes footage, showing the changing rooms and the team bus travelling back to Celtic Park.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgdilMN0mM8

For many, this made for entertaining viewing… I watched with less satisfaction. Having said that, I enjoyed watching the engagement and evident bond between player, backroom staff and fan at full time. It was the remainder of the video, the scenes shot off the park that I saw in poor taste. I was disgruntled by the aforementioned passion – this time, the lack of it on display.

It struck me that through the various dance moves, (particularly impressive from Joe Ledley and somewhat comical by Paddy McCourt) the array of songs played and celebratory alcoholic beverages consumed, not a solitary Celtic song could be heard.

Now if I take you back to last season, the first team squad were invited to sing the Celtic Song, which was recorded and later sold by the club. Less than half of the team members sung with any degree of notable enthusiasm and, embarrassingly, a couple of players were unaware of the lyrics. I was shocked that such a recognisable anthem, traditionally played at every single home game as the team emerge from the tunnel, could not be learned. One would expect the squad to have grasped the words, having taken in a vast number of home matches throughout the season.

However, I must point out that this observation is not something I had recently noticed. It was unsurprising. Sadly, for a number of years, players and management alike – have not indulged in the singing or listening to Celtic songs, let alone heartfelt renditions of them.

I listened with great fondness to the tale of the escapades in the tunnel prior to the European Cup final of ’67. The Celtic team had been geeing themselves up for the occasion by singing some of the hoops fans favourite chants pre match – of course it is worth noting that much of that team were indeed Celtic fans. As the Lisbon Lions lined up alongside the ‘team that Italy adored’, something magical happened. The Italians were superstars and looked as such. They were pampered professionals with modern haircuts and a full set of teeth; something scarce among their opponents. Not fazed by Inter’s daunting presence, Bertie Auld cleared his throat and inhaled deep into his lungs ‘Sure it’s a grand old team to play for, it’s a grand old team to see…’ he begun to sing. The lions all followed suit and the entire Celtic support soon joined in. Inter were stunned and no doubt intimidated. Celtic were fired up and already had the upper hand.

In more recent times, during the Martin O’Neil era, Henrik Larsson to his great credit was singing the Celtic song with a beaming smile at the top of his voice, after clinching the SPL title at home to Livingstone. Undoubtedly, Henrik was a fervent Celt and one of the few players from the modern era who really knew what it meant to pull on the green and white hooped jersey.

What I am trying to say is: why was there no profound appreciation, in that changing room and on board the team bus, of this magnificent club on 26th of May and any other occasion for that matter? Why should a pay cheque or professional role erode your pride engendered within? There are a few Celtic fans involved with the current squad: Neil Lennon, Tony Watt, Paddy McCourt and Charlie Mulgrew. Added to that are the converted ‘tims’ in Joe Ledley, Lukas Zaluska, Emilio Izzaguire and no doubt others after the experiences they have enjoyed in front of our fine supporters.

Despite the grumble above, the team have done us proud this season with a fantastic and much needed run in Europe. They have succeeded adequately in domestic fronts and have given Celtic fans something to be proud of. With regards to their on pitch performances, I cannot complain. I’d just like to see that love of Celtic, the knowledge of what it means to play for this club and the culture of it all rekindled within the dressing room.

‘When you pull on that jersey, you are playing for a people and a cause.’

– Tommy Burns

Suicide Terror and the ‘Politics of Pity’

Regular TAL contributor HAL addresses some of the issues around the recent terror attacks in Boston and Woolwich.

Woolwich-attack-1

In the 1970’s and 1980’s the word terrorism was ubiquitous in daily news reports. The epithet ‘terrorist’ was a dirty word used to smear your enemy. The language of terrorism was used as part of the propaganda war between adversaries. In the fascinating recent documentary ‘The Gatekeepers’ about Shin Bet, the Israeli internal intelligence agency, one of the former heads of the organisation, Yuval Diskin, describes his Palestinian adversary at the time as a ‘terrorist’ but pointed out that ‘of course to him I was also a terrorist’ and repeated the old adage that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. However the old definitions no longer apply. Today terrorism is different.

In the past groups like the PLO and IRA were amenable to negotiation. They possessed a set of clearly defined political demands. They had an agenda and a goal and their use of violence was part of a calculated strategy. The armed struggle was not nihilistic or aimless.

woolwich_adebowaleHowever as seen on 9/11 and on 7/7 and more recently in Woolwich and Boston nihilistic modern day terrorism is an immature and wrong-headed protest: the terrorist holds up a mirror to society and says this is you. You are responsible for the terrorist atrocity. It is an abdication of responsibility. A case of ‘Now look what you made me do!’ Furthermore as the scholar Faisal Devji observed the act of martyrdom occurs as a media spectacle (1).

It is the case that the mainstream narrative is lacking and there is of course much hypocrisy associated with Western values. One thing the West could learn is that you cannot spread Enlightenment values and democratic ideals in the Muslim world (or anywhere else for that matter) through the barrel of a gun. However, the indiscriminate targeting of public events and supposedly symbolic targets by ‘self-starting’ terrorists is nihilism. There is no strategy or point. The deed is the point, the act of terror the end in itself.

The robust response is not to overreact, not to treat such incidents as a mortal blow against civilization. A twofold response is necessary. In the first instance we need to place the terrorist atrocity in perspective, to deal with it on a security and law and order level and not induce a state of panic which is what the perpetrators of terrorist action seek. The second longer term response involves an honest debate on the direction and values of society. It cannot all be about security.

Various security responses have been proposed such as starving the terrorists of the ‘oxygen of publicity’. This is an ineffective short-term measure. It invites the next act to be more spectacular and bloodier still to have the desired impact. The Woolwich murder was not an ordinary crime. What in effect amounted to a summary public execution was deliberately conducted in a gruesome, brutal manner to cause shock and outrage. Yes it was a senseless act devoid of political meaning but the assailants did not seek to escape. They were not motivated by monetary gain or a pathological need for respect or status nor were they staking a claim to territory. The assailants reportedly made a suicidal charge at armed police before they were shot and injured.

woolwich2One of the suspects Michael Adebolajo was a Muslim convert. He was born in Lambeth and raised a devout Catholic in a stable family environment. Like the Boston bombers the Woolwich killers were Western educated. Their actions could be viewed as an extreme example of the ‘politics of pity’, a deranged and misguided empathy with the suffering of overseas victims of Western militarism.

Historian Faisal Devji in his 2005 book ‘Landscapes of the Jihad’ examines the idea of the ‘politics of pity’. He quotes a poem an al-Qaeda member composed in honour of one of the suicide bombers who destroyed the American embassy in Nairobi: ‘Your good action caused flags to fly at half-mast, and your chaste face smashed idols/ You said goodbye to lions and their young cubs and strode through a door where you were an imam/ Finding other courses of endeavour crowded, you selected a course where there was no crowd/ With high resolve you looked with disdain on death and defeated the massive army of infidelity and doubt’ (2). Suicide terrorist or sacred martyr depending on your point of view yet the passage resonates with spiritual energy. It is religious and visionary.

boston-bombHowever, this is not a satisfactory explanation either of what motivates the vengeful and destructive impulses of modern day jihadists. The Boston and Woolwich killers plunged themselves as well as countless others into a nightmare. The Boston brothers had the opportunity of pursuing the American Dream. Yet they rejected it. The Woolwich duo spurned any attempt to pursue a fulfilling life. These are questions which cannot easily be dismissed as simple narcissism and everyday criminality. There is evidently a deep alienation and atomisation corroding the social fabric of Western societies.

There was an ideological motivation behind the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7 and the recent ones in Woolwich and Boston albeit a deeply flawed one. Suicide terrorism should be viewed and countered in the context of ideology and beliefs. Suicide is the ultimate act of nihilism. However invest it with political symbolism, dress it up as a political statement and it acquires meaning, it becomes part of a narrative. It becomes potent and glorious rather than meaningless and empty. It becomes spectacular rather than banal. This is the hallmark of modern day individual terrorism. This is what needs to be countered but is Western democracy up to the task?

(934)

(1) Devji, F. (2005) ‘Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity’, Hurst & Company, London

(2) Devji, F. (2005) ‘Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity’, Hurst & Company, London

HAL

Twitter: @michael_hal

 

A Season at Bloemfontein Celtic

TAL Fanzine’s South African based correspondent Eddie Mac gives a summary of a season that captured the spirit of South African Premier League football.

May saw the end of the current PSL (South African Premier League) and as I stay in Cape Town I headed to Athlone stadium and watched Ajax CT play Golden Arrows and record a victory to survive in the Premier League for next season.

As many of you know from the TAL forum, since relocating to SA I have become a fan of Bloemfontein Celtic and have posted many videos on YouTube that shows the commitment of the Celtic fans – win, lose or draw.

The close season saw a lot of players go out that were on loan the previous season and in come a few new faces including Boebie Solomons as assistant coach to Clinton Larsen. The forums and facebook pages showed an air of anger in the approach to Bloem Celtic’s pre- seasons signings.
So the season started and, as it was 2005 since Celtic had last claimed any competitive silverware, the fans were expectant that something must be delivered this year. The first game was a MTN Cup match, a tournament for the top 8 finishers from the previous seasons. Celtic were pitted against Premier League Champs Orlando Pirates. The match was played in Soweto Stadium and was nip and tuck until Celtic conceded a dubious penalty in the 83rd minute, which concluded their participation in the tournament .

Their first trip to Cape Town was at the back end of September to play newly promoted Chippa Utd. Chippa were at that stage the whipping boys of the league. Celtic’s form in the league was; played 4, won two, lost two, but there was an air of confidence among the supporters, playing a team who had yet to record a win in the league. The match was a dull affair in all honesty. The fans efforts couldn’t lift a lacklustre Celtic and we fell behind by 2 goals, they pulled a late penalty back through Lennox Bacela but their efforts were too late. The fans went home disappointed .

A couple of weeks later comes the draw for the Telkom Cup, another tournament for the 16 teams in the top flight league. Celtic were handed a tough draw a return trip to Chippa Utd, Celtic don’t really travel too well to the mother city (Cape Town) over the years and to make matters worse Chippa Utd were allowed to host the game in Phillipi Stadium in the heart of one of the toughest townships in the Western Cape at the stadium known as ‘The Slaughterhouse’. As usual, when Celtic do play in CT, myself and good few lads go to watch them, but playing in the Township, through one reason and another, people pulled out. Maybe the reputation of the place had got the better of them. Myself and Magnus couldn’t care less, it was an extra opportunity to see the bhoys in green and white and nothing and no-one was going to stop me going to see the team I follow.
The morning of the match I was nervous driving into the location and hearing stories about it, but then received a call from Botha, one of Bloem Celtic’s most recognisable fans, he was at the hotel with the team and needed a lift. I have met Botha over the years and he’s a great character for football in this country and now I had a chance to meet the man and get an insight into him. I told him I would come by the hotel just after 1pm. As I pulled up the team coach was parked outside. As I made my way in the team I was going to follow were heading out. I wished the coach all the best, they were tense and focused. A few of the players followed and I wished them the same, some thanked me for the wishes and a couple looked confused because this white fella knew who they were and was in his Celtic top too . In the foyer Lennox Bacela was heading out, he welcomed me and I wished him luck. Following behind was Patrick Tignyemb, a former Cameroon U23 Captain.  Patrick met me with a gracious broad smile, as I had met him there before with my daughter a couple of years back and chat regular with him through FB .                           


Then came one of the most recognisable faces in SA, a loud laugh and ‘MR EDDIE’ – Botha greets me with a hug. We headed to the car and the team looking on from the coach with Botha waving and wishing them luck. We weren’t two minutes from the hotel, sat at the traffic lights interchange and the lad who sells the newspapers there (another Celtic fan) sees Botha  and forgets about selling his papers. He runs over and greets us, the two of them chatting like long lost friends. The lights turn green and we leave the newspaper seller standing in the road with his hands in the air cheering . 

My nerves of the morning had gone. In my passenger seat was Botha and everyone knows him. We pulled into Phillipi by a crossroads. Mini-bus taxi’s driving towards us, beeping us and waving, having seen Botha. Children playing at the side of the road see him and start running alongside the car with him hanging half-out of the window, giving high-fives to these lads with smiles as big as their faces . We pulled in to the stadium but had no pass to drive in, so Botha got out and went to see the Chairmen of Chippa Utd. I had parked up, it was busy outside the stadium, people with Chiefs jerseys, others with Pirates jerseys on, some lads trying to run through the security to get in for nothing. Mag in the back was getting slightly paranoid about us being the only two white men in view in the middle of a township, but I felt we gained respect, people passed the car, looked and then double-looked, and then gave a nod of approval.
I have stopped drinking the last 3 years and I’ve never felt higher than I did at that point, the adrenalin was pumping, a mixture of nerves and excitement. Botha re-emerged and told us to drive in. We met the Cape Town Celtic branch to whom the club had given 300 tickets. I parked up. Botha put on his match gear – shower cap, Celtic overalls – and we walked over to enter the stadium. Before that Botha introduced me to Mitch D’avery, Celtic technical director, and then we met the ref of the game Victor Gomes. We were standing outside Celtic changing room before they came out to warm up and could hear the team going through the same songs that would be sang on the stands less than an hour later. This was a magical experience and the game had not even started yet. As we walked in, the main grandstand was occupied by the Chippa Utd fans and rent-a-fans of the area. Botha and I made our way round to the other side and met up with Magnus and a few others. Handshakes and greetings, then the songs started. While the players warmed up the Celtic fans were singing a song which sounded like ‘Chip Away’  – all the lads had these moves where they touched the head, then shoulders and then sat down and jumped up again .
                              
Come kick off time the Celtic side had swelled to about 500 people and the songs were in full flow. It was a competitive first half with Celtic getting slightly the better of it. It was a typical Cape Town day with changeable weather that affected the second half. We had wind, strong sun, heat and rain.  As the weather changed, a mistake between defender Dominic Issac’s and Tigyemb resulted in a goal for Chippa Utd. For a split second the Celtic fans were in stunned silence, then the bhoys and ghirls of the Cape Town branch, along with Botha and one confused man with a rangers tracksuit top on, erupted into a chorus of ‘Siwelele’ . The fans had responded and now it was down to the team to respond to the faith shon in them. They pressured Chippa and the introduction of Lerato Manzini changed the game. In the 79th minute Dominc Issac’s scored his first competitive goal ever. Celtic were back in it at 1-1. The noise got louder and louder, you could sense Celtic’s dominance coming through. Five minutes later Manzini, ripping through the Chippa defence, plays the ball back to Jacky Motshegwa, whose first time effort on the edge of the 18 yard box sails past the keeper. Celtic were ahead! The 500 or so Celtic fans go ballistic, jumping and cheering they have come back from a goal down and within 6 minutes are leading the game. The ref blew the whistle and Celtic had done what they haven’t done in a while – get past the first stage of a cup tournament.
The players and technical staff came over to celebrate with the fans. The same songs and moves that were being made in the stands were being made on the pitch. Once the crowds had cleared Botha, myself and Mag headed to the car . As we were by the side of the stadium, the players came out and we met a few of the Chippa players and had pictures taken with them. Then the Celtic players came out, young Manzini who has been a real find, posed with us. The keeper Patrick, willing and thankful as ever, and my favourite player, Lennox Bacela, posed with us. Botha even got the coach Clinton Larsen and Boebie Solomons off the coach to meet us. When I saw Clinton Larsen I told him, ‘Before this game I said to Felix [the then brand manager] if Celtic beat Chippa they will win the cup.’  To which he replied, ‘From your lips to God’s ears.’  As the the coach pulled out, the players waved from the windows. Jesus, I was like a child at Christmas. Funny, as I am older than most of the players, but these fellas and fans are mighty players and people .                       

We said to Botha that if Celtic got to final we would go wherever it was to be held in SA. The draw for the quarter-finals was made and Celtic were pitted against Orlando Pirates, but at home. The day of the game I was working a market. I got a message Celtic were 2-0 down. I wrapped up my stall and headed home to see the last 20 mins on TV. When I got there Celtic had pulled a goal back with a penalty from Lennox Bacela, but time was running out and the Pirates scored another.  3-1 down, it seemed like the dream of going to the final really was just a dream. That day a player who really stood out, Ruzaigh Gamildien, played the game of his life and about 5 mins from full-time he headed home a great move that would belong to any league in the world. There was now a slight chance that Celtic could get back into it.  The clock was running down, but deep into added time a cross came in, which Moneeb Josephs punched it out and Joel Mogorosi did an overhead kick with near-on last kick of the game – GOAL! It’s 3-3 and the dream final is back on. The scenes on my TV from the Freestate Stadium were unreal. Celtic had come back from the brink, the Pirates were broken and the next half-hour of extra time provided the same excitement. The Celtic goalie was keeping them in the game with some fantastic saves. It was to be decided on penalties. The kicks were going to hand, and then the Pirates missed… Patrick had saved it!  The impossible now looked possible. Up stepped Dominic Issac’s, a defender, his spot kick was the same as David O’Leary’s in World Cup 1990, cool as hell, sending Josephs the other way. The place erupted and on to the semi finals marched the men who wear the green and white in South Africa.

The semi-finals were a Freestate derby. Celtic were drawn against Freestate Stars, a tough team under the guidance of Steve Komphela. It was going to be a tough match for Celtic and made tougher with head coach Clinton Larsen banned from the touchline, but after an exciting game the men in green and white had made it through to their first final in 7 years, winning 3-2 in extra time.

True to our word, Magnus and I sorted flights and headed for Durban, to the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Celtic were up against the club Mamelodi Sundowns,  a team owned by Billionaire mining man Patrice Motsepe, a team laden with big names and some of the biggest earners in the PSL . Celtic had played Sundowns the week before and lost and Sundowns were going through rough time in the league under the Dutch man Johan Neekans. Celtic’s form in this tournament was unstoppable. In the league, by the time of the cup final, Celtic had won 5 drawn 1 and lost 6 .

So we arrived in Durban midday, got to the hotel where Magnus had booked, rang Felix, the then brand manager of the club who sorted our tickets, took a walk down North Beach where there was a few fans off both teams knocking about. The football culture is slightly different here where on match days you would meet up at bars in Europe, etc.

We got to the ground just after 7pm. Celtic had claimed the south stand of the stadium. the closer Magnus and I got to the crowd the more we could feel the anticipation. On the approach to the ground we got talking to a few fans that had traveled down by bus from Bloemfontein, over a 12 hour journey, all welcoming me and Mag. They couldn’t believe we flew up from Cape Town for the game and wanted pictures with us. As I got through the gates there’s an opening at the south stand and all you could see was a sea of green and white. Approximately 15,000 fans Celtic fans had traveled from all over SA to see the men in green and white, the singing was mighty deafening at some points. The only thing I could compare it to was like a smaller version of the Glasgow Celtic fans in Seville in the Uefa Cup Final. This was it. From the first time I saw Celtic on a rainy night in Stellenbosch in 2009, to see them on the big stage with thousands of the faithful fans behind them.

The game started and was played at a fast pace. I lost Magnus very early on when he saw a fellow fan with a beer in his hand and asked him where he got it and that was him away till much later, but I wasn’t alone I was with 15,000 friends and comrades .  The first half finished 0-0. Both sets of fans were playing their part but no-one in SA can beat Celtic fans for their passion and songs. Second half started and early on Celtic were on the attack; a cross came in and Joel Mogorosi headed it goal bound, but with the keeper stranded Clyton Daniels (rumoured to be on trial at Glasgow Celtic) cleared off the line. The South end of the stadium erupted, the linesman and ref pointed to the centre circle.  47 minutes and the men in green and white were a goal up, a man I did not know and never saw before embraced me and celebrated like we were the best of mates.  7 years without a competitive cup could be coming to an end, but the next 43 minutes were going be long. The singing continued and the longer the final went on the stronger Celtic became. Lennox Bacela could have sealed it with 5 mins of the 90 left but for the upright. Four minutes of added time was held up. Botha, usually at the head of the singing and dancing was nervous, along with 15,000 other Celtic fans. Then the moment every Celtic fan in the country waited for – the final whistle. The scenes of celebration among the fans were magic. The players and coaching staff had paid back the fans who through the good times and bad times have been faithful to the core. The chorus of ‘Siwe Siwelele Siwe ohhhhhh ohhhh’ rang around the stands, the players celebrating with the fans.

The handing over of the cup was done by the centre circle so I couldn’t really see much, but as soon as everything was done, interviews over, the chairman Jimmy Augosti  got hold of the trophy, ran towards us and plonked it down in front of the fans, gesturing ‘For You’ in similar fashion to Neil Lennon with the Green Brigade. It was mighty celebrations. I don’t normally sing or dance, firstly as I don’t know the language the guys and girls sing, and secondly I don’t dance, but I was dancing away with the fans. I meet my friend ‘Shakes’ who use to stay in Cape Town, then my Mrs’ texts me saying  ‘I can see you on TV dancing ah ha ‘ but I couldn’t care, it was magic. I found Magnus again and he had some funny stories to tell of how the security guard tried charging him to get into the ground again, but he was already in it!  However, a few pints too many, coupled with not being from Cape Town and not knowing the stadium, he still paid to get in again while already in – ha ha.

We headed to North Durban’s night life after the game. We jumped into the back of someone’s car in the stadium car park and headed to a bar. We stood out quite easy as we were the only two white dudes knocking about the area, but we were welcomed by everyone. In fact I’ve  never had so many pictures taken. Durban was a blast and strengthened my support even more for Bloem Celtic .
Celtic’s next trip to the mother city was in February. In the meantime Bafana (the South African national team) played at the Cape Town Stadium against Norway. More than 40,000 football fans turned out on a January evening and, although they lost, it was a great night and build up towards the AFCON Cup, which was  held in SA.  Sadly, there were no games in CT of that tournament as the Western Cape government f***ed up with their application to host games.
                        
So the bhoys in green and white rocked up in Cape Town again to play Ajax CT who were having a terrible season having sacked their manager early in the season and infighting from the two owners of the club seemed to be having a major effect on the field .
Botha phoned again for a lift to the ground. I was also carrying me pal, a landlord from Co.Down, and my friend Gerry from Belfast who was over on holiday. Got there, Ajax had a good amount of fans but the Cape Town branch again came out in force and were bolstered by a gang of lads from Scotland who are working out here. Celtic were caught off guard again on their travels and found themselves a goal down at halftime. During the first-half the Bloem Celtic fans were in full voice and, as they finished a song, Barry, one the Scottish lads, started the Celtic Song and about 20 of us, some based here, some on holiday, sang with him. The Bloem Celtic fans were kind of shocked, but when it was finished they all clapped and then Botha made up a song, which all the Bloem Celtic fans seemed to know, but was just made up there on the spot, funny as hell.
Second half started and Celtic gave a penalty away. Luckily for them Ajax missed and then, for me, the best second half of football I saw in years happened… Gamilidien and Lyle Lackey, two Cape Town born players, dominated the midfield and we came back from a goal down two lead 2-1.  Celtic just couldn’t find the third goal to secure victory and, as if by the law of averages, Ajax CT snatched a late equalizer near the death. I wasn’t too upset, Celtic got a point, as did Ajax who I like as well and living in CT I often go to watch them. Had to give Botha a lift back to the team hotel, so I hung around the Athlone Stadum a while after the game. The area has a reputation as a tough district and has an element of gang violence so hanging around in a car park at 10pm is not the greatest of ideas, but waited for Botha anyway… When I dropped him off the team manager John Maduka, a former Malawian international and Celtic captain and Lerato Manzini came out to meet me. I’d spoken with John on the phone a few times so it was nice to meet him and Lerato. The club have a very good relationship with the fans.
The second half of the season saw Celtic do better in the league with 5 wins, 3 losses and 6 draws, also getting to the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup, only to lose to the finalists Kaiser Chiefs through an own goal from former Chiefs defender Dominc Issac’s. However, if the club can keep the current squad together and build on what they put down this season Celtic could be up there with a major chance for league honours .
Bloemfontein Celtic are everyone’s second team if they’re not the team you support, the fans are admired all over South Africa. For me, in the last 5 and-a-half years  I’ve gotten right into SA football. There is so much emphasis on English Premiership football here, it’s shocking. But when the local stadiums are full the noise is amazing.  From the singing to the Vuvuzelas – Yes, I did say Vuvzelas – as these guys have a special way of playing them. Bear in mind that during the World Cup you had every Tom, Dick and Harry without any element of rhythm blowing them .
The sport of football is still looked down on out here. On May 1st I was at Ajax V Kaizer Chiefs at the CT stadium. 40,000 fans passed through the gates. No hassles, just fans enjoying themselves, yet in the local paper the following week they led with the headline ‘Hooligan Soccer Fans ‘ because some fans had pissed against the walls around the stadium. Tell me a football league in the world were fans don’t have a piss near the stadiums?
I can honestly say that the folk I have met through football in SA are some of the best people you could ever hope meet. I can’t wait for next season to start and to make my long overdue trip to Bloemfontein to watch the Celtic play…