With an impressive and comfortable victory against AIK, when Celtic ran out convincing 6-1 aggregate winners against the Swedish champions in the final Europa League qualifying match, all eyes turned towards the draw for the competition group stages being made the following day. As always, there is a feverish impatience amongst fans to start making plans for journeys across Europe to cheer on the Hoops and hopefully take in a new city, stadium and culture along the way.
The first two teams drawn in Group E did not disappoint as Celtic were handed a trip to Rome to take on Lazio, the current Coppa Italia holders. Immediately, fans began checking airline operators’ websites to book their trip to watch Celtic in their first competitive match in the Eternal City. However, for one fan group, the trip to Rome will give their supporters club a chance to watch Celtic in their home country for the first time since 2015.
During the summer, I caught up with Alessandro Boretti, the President of the Italian Celts CSC, to find out more about the Italian Celts CSC and why Celtic is the team for them.
The Italian Celts CSC were established in 2007 and is a group of around 150 fans from all across Italy who share their love of Celtic from pubs and clubs based in Finnegans Bar in Rome and Florence, Paolo Gas Bar in Barga (Tuscany), and the Shamrock Bar in Lecco in the north, near Milan. In Udine, in the north east of the country, another club is run by a Scot, Paul Rinaldi.
The current club format was set up on the anniversary of the death of legendary Celtic goalkeeper, John Thomson, but the origins of the wider Celtic supporters club go back to 1990, when the first CSC was founded under the ‘Packie Bonner No.1 CSC’. A few changes to the organisation over the years have seen it altered to ‘The Italian Bhoys’ and, finally, its current name of ‘The Italian Celts CSC’.Listen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast
There is a membership fee as part of the club and there are often badges and scarves available to buy. The group catch up regularly in a forum, discussing pre-match tactics and post-match analysis where it can get heated, as the club president explained, “As in Italy, we are 60 million football managers.”
The club members will organise an annual CSC trip to Celtic Park to take in a match in late Autumn, and this year the group will be in Paradise for the visit of Ross County in October. Also, with European football guaranteed until December, the fans from Italy will be joining up with other Hoops’ faithful to watch Celtic in France, Romania and, of course, Rome.
Alessandro explained about his first memories of Celtic behind the famous green-and-white hoops themselves, before adding, “It was the late ‘70s and the Italian Broadcast Television company showed European goals. We also had television signals from Switzerland and from former Yugoslavia, who showed international football and a football magazine called ‘Guerin Sportivo’. Then there is the history and the European Cup won against Internazionale Milano. However, when Celtic played in the European Cup in 1981 against Juventus, I definitely became a Tim!”
We often hear about the Celtic family and, for the Italian Celts, it’s no different as Alessandro explained, “Celtic for us is a big family. Sometimes it is said that football divides, but in our way Celtic unites a group of people all around this country and abroad, as when we travel it’s easy to meet and relate with friends and other fans to help make a difference to people in difficulty.”
Finally, we spoke about players past and present, and Alessandro couldn’t hide his admiration for a few – the skill and quick feet of Tom Rogic and the longevity of our captain and on-field leader Scott Brown in the current squad; the Lisbon Lions were also inevitably name-checked and there was special praise for the 10 men who won the league back in 1979.
If you are planning a trip to Italy during the season and hope to catch a Celtic match in the company of fellow fans, get in contact with the Italian Celts CSC on Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook – The Italian Celts CSC