In the same week that Celtic Football Club sets a new British record of 63 consecutive games unbeaten in domestic competition it is also celebrating it’s 130th birthday! The Champions surpassed their own 100 year old record, dating back to 1917 when Willie Maley was manager of the club.
The meeting to formally constitute Celtic Football Club took place on this day in 1887 at St Mary’s Catholic Church in the Calton, East End of Glasgow. The clubs first game took place on May 28th 1888, where the men in white shirts with green collars and a Celtic Cross on the breast competed for the very first time against Rangers Football Club. Neil McCallum was the club’s first ever goal scorer as the Bhoys went on to win the game 5-2.
Over its 130 years the club has won 102 major honours; lead by 18 different managers. The bhoys in green have secured the Scottish League Championship on 48 occasions, the oldest trophy in world football the Scottish Cup on 37 occasions and the Scottish League Cup on 16 occasions.
In 1967, on our 80th birthday, The Celts were crowned ‘Champions of Europe’. The Glasgow side became the first British club to lift the European Cup, beating Inter Milan in Lisbon by 2 goals to 1. A documentary shown by the BBC called ‘Glasgow 1967: The Lisbon Lions’ capturing the story of Glasgow, Jock Stein and Celtic was this week awarded a BAFTA in the single documentary category. Another trophy on the mantelpiece highlighting the nations fascination with one of the greatest sport stories ever told. The tale of the Glasgow District XI; the 11 men who lived within 15 miles of Parkhead, with the exception of Bobby Lennox who lived 30 miles away in Saltcoats, who lifted the European Cup.
Celtic have reached four European Finals; the European Cup in 1967 & 1970, the Intercontinental Cup in 1967 and, most recently, the UEFA Cup in 2003.
Regardless of the massive success the club has achieved over a century of football, the most fulfilling attribute of this proud Glasgow institute is it’s charitable work which stretches far and wide across the globe.
“A football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children and the unemployed.” – Brother Walfrid, November 6th, 1887
Celtic was founded for two reasons. The first was to raise money to provide food for the poor living in the East End of Glasgow. It is important to note that this poor population was, predominantly, made up of Irish immigrants. It is important because the second reason Celtic Football Club was formed was to encourage social integration and to remove the friction between native Glaswegians and the ‘alien’ Irish community. The club’s principal founder, a Marist Brother named Walfrid, envisioned a football club that would bring harmony to the Scottish, Irish, Protestant and Catholic communities living in the city. He believed that such a club could be used to bring these communities together.
This quote, and indeed Brother Walfrid, distinguished Celtic Football Club from every other club in Scotland and, widely, the World. This charitable tradition and the clubs ethos – ‘A club welcome to all’ – both remain of principal importance to the club and its supporters to this day. As a recent example, Celtic’s ultra group ‘the Green Brigade’ host an annual food bank collection keeping with tradition of providing food for the most vulnerable people in our society. This year’s collection took place on 28th October prior to Celtic’s league game against Kilmarnock at Parkhead. In the fight for social inclusion, it has been well documented that Celtic have stood for many anti-racist and anti-sectarian projects over the years. The launch of their Learning Center in 2006 was the basis of Celtic’s promise to provide education in order to develop and maintain relationships based on equality, fairness and mutual respect.
Today Celtic Football Club is celebrating its 130th year. Knowing that the purpose of the club in 1887 is still being fulfilled 130 years on fills myself and many Celtic supporters with great pride. Our ethos is one which is carried around the world, and it has affected my personal life in such a way that I may never have been born. Looking back at Walfrid’s founding principles, remembering that my family came across the Irish Sea to find a new life in Glasgow, and knowing that they were made welcome by the football club that I support 130 years on is bringing tears to my eyes as I type this passage. Significantly though, and looking back at Walfrid’s vision of a football club that would bring harmony to Protestant and Catholic communities in Scotland, there is a story even closer to home which I wish to finish with.
I was brought into this world by a Catholic Mother and a Protestant Father. And when I was 8 years old my Father took me to my very first game of football, at Celtic Park. The man is Celtic daft, always regaling stories of King Kenny and the Jungle. He tells me about the seasons he endured as Rangers, our bitter rivals, marched towards 10 in a row and now we both laugh about it. But it will always make me smile knowing that had it not been for one man, the bold Brother Walfrid, telling the native Glaswegians that you have no reason to fear, loathe or agitate the Irish-Catholic and, indeed, that you have every reason to love, cherish, celebrate and support the Irish-Catholic – in a long turn of events, my parents may never have wed. Glasgow was changed on the 6th November 1887. It was changed forever. In the same way that Scots accepted Celtic, my Protestant Father accepted his Catholic wife and in turn they gave birth to me and my brother. You may think I am mad, and I’m reading too much into history but there is no denying that Celtic Football Club nurtured an acceptance for a community that had long perished, and in some nations many Catholics continue to be discriminated against. But not here. Not in Glasgow. Because we are Glasgow Celtic, a club welcome to ALL.
IF YOU WISH TO SUPPORT THE FOUNDATION THIS CHRISTMAS
The Celtic FC Foundation’s Christmas Appeal is well underway and former vocalist for Glasgow band Yashin Kevin Miles has released a new track ‘Celtic, My Heart & My Soul’ to raise funds for the appeal. The Foundations Christmas Appeal is being used to help as many as 300 local families facing poverty, and has been doing so since 2006.
The song is available through iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. All proceeds from the sales of the song will be donated to Celtic FC Foundation’s 2017 Christmas Appeal. Get downloading!