Last night, in the 62nd minute of the Champions League Quarter Final first leg between Manchester City and Bayern Munich, something so significant happened that the commentators mentioned it.
The City fans, watching their team playing well and 1-0 to the good, started to sing. Was it the first time that night? It was certainly the first time the TV audience heard them, and that’s why the commentary team thought it worth mentioning.
And this isn’t the first occasion on which that stadium has more resembled a morgue than a cathedral of dazzling football. And it’s not the only ground in England, or from around Europe, where this is obviously the case. It’s more common than not.
I’m not claiming that the fans of the super-clubs don’t care about their teams or their games, I’m just saying that in some cases you would find it hard to believe.
Too many clubs, especially amongst the giants, are artificial constructs, built out of debts and oligarch wealth. The connection between the success of their team and the average punter paying his money through the gates, is redundant where it isn’t simply non-existent.
And that’s reflected in the atmosphere. It’s one of the things that makes Celtic different.
We’re not watching a collection of world class players assembled by a sugar-daddy. Every one of us takes an enormous amount of pride in being fans, yes, but more than that in being supporters; in short, it’s our money that pays for all the club’s success.
Celtic Park rocks on big Champions League nights.
It’s not for nothing that so many world class footballers have lined up to pay it fulsome tribute in the aftermath of games.
No commentator would ever break from talking about the action because our fans had suddenly burst into song an hour into a match; Celtic Park pulses with noise on those nights.
The game itself last night was tremendous, but the City fans didn’t really come to life until they were a few goals to the good and even then it was like watching the sort of muted celebrations you get at the rugby or at Wimbledon or something … Celtic Park’s atmosphere would have been electrifying. It would be raucous.
You would have felt like you were at a party.
The Champions League needs Celtic Park. Every game at this stage in the competition should be played in front of a passionate home crowd who are raising the roof. A quarter final in the biggest competition in world football should not be played in front of a crowd which is half asleep, a crowd that comes to life so seldom that it gets a mention on Sky.
That would never be us.
Even when we’re getting beat in that tournament, Celtic Park is a world away from the funereal monument to oil money and what it can buy that we saw that game take place in last night, mostly because we built it ourselves.