Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A History Lesson: AC Milan v Celtic (1-0)

Never again! It was like watching the Kombai tribe drain starch from sago palms for hours on end.

Yesterday, with no real strain on my part despite my past indiscretions with Berlusconi's team of dangerous looks and moves, I decided to root for Celtic in their vital Champions League Group D match against Milan. Barcelona is my team, of course, but I thought I'd root for the scruffy team from Glasgow since my attraction to Milan has been fleeting of late. It wasn't intended to mean anything in the first place. Just fill the hours when I wasn't watching Barcelona... or West Ham. It was always supposed to be superficial, thoughtless, and incorrigibly wicked. I could've simply remained neutral... but I never seem to remain neutral whenever I watch other teams play, however much I try. At some point, I always take a side, declare loyalty (albeit a temporary and non binding oath) to my "new" club, and rage against the opposing team. Maybe it's an American thing. Maybe it's just me. It is what it is.

Celtic are no strangers to me. But it's all secondary knowledge. Everything I know about them has come from books, articles, and highlight reels. I'm not aware of anyone (as far as I know) who actively supports them. Nevertheless, I always figured I'd see them sometime when I made it to Glasgow, as well as catching their Old Firm rivals Rangers in action. When in Glasgow....

Matched up against the sleek, current European champions Milan, I expected Celtic would really take it to 'em, especially since the Scottish club was fighting for a spot in the knockout phase of the tournament. Celtic only needed a draw to advance, but their fate was also predicated on whether Benfica managed to beat the Ukrainian underdogs Shakhtar, which was being played at the same time. At any rate, Celtic's fate wasn't entirely in their own control. To me, that means it was time to kick out the jams! Instead, Celtic played with the desultory finesse of a team best left for vulture gnoshing. Their display of "football", brilliantly slog-footed as it was, made me yearn for the Rangers v Barcelona match a few weeks earlier which resulted in a 0-0 draw. A game so depressing on Rangers' part, with their spineless dedication to the defensive anti-football grind, that their manager Walter Smith actually had the gall to gravely commend his lads for their "excellent result" afterward. Perhaps Mr. Smith has a crueler sense of humor than I originally thought.

At least Rangers had a methodology. As far as I could detect, Celtic's whole plan was to pantomime the game at its dullest, and keep things dreary in the midfield, creatively prevent any and all attempts at scoring against Milan's keeper Zeljko Kalac (Celtic had no more than three shots on goal the entire evening). Oh, where was Henrik Larsson when you need him?

My earnest sympathy for the Scottish underdogs betrayed me within twenty minutes. And so I crept back toward Milan, unable to resist their venal allure and wishing that they'd wallop Celtic just to teach 'em a lesson and hoping that the true underdog Ukrainian team could manage to equalize against Benfica. Shahktar, who seemed to be playing with far more courage and vitality in their own match (as well as with basic footballing skills) from what I could make out from the brief channel-switching I did, were sadly unable to pull through.

Supposedly, Scottish football is on the rise. But if the performances by Celtic and Rangers on the wider European stage are indicative of their newfound ambitions, I think I'll start learning where the nearest Sago palms are located.


sf2007 said...

i'm hoping you'll have some good things to say about Celtic now, after (probably) watching them play your beloved Barca??? I'm sure any of the 2000 Barca fans who came to Glasgow will tell you just how different Celtic and Rangers and their fans are. Celtic and Barcelona fans have a great friendship as do the two clubs, and what an atmosphere and experience to be at Celtic Park last week when the two teams met in the UCL.Celtic don't employ anti-football tactics as our neighbours in the city, but playing AC Milan often serves up boring and cagey games, often goalless as seen in the Arsenal v Ac Milan match. Unfortunately teams can often go out to play exciting, attacking football, but if the opposition parks the bus, or deploys anti-football measures, not much can be done.

Derek said...

Thanks for posting.

No, you're right... if the bus is parked, even the most forward-minded attacking club is going to regress.

I did manage to catch major highlights of the Celtic v Barca match after the fact (it wasn't being shown where I was holed up; I could only see the Man U v Lyon live) and it looked amazing from what I could tell.

I'll definitely be watching the second leg in Barcelona... and hope for a great, competitive match.