Wrapped in Clover (Films)

The Celtic segment of the documentary series “The Fans Who Make Football, ” broadcast on Al Jazeera, pulls you in immediately, right from the start: “Celtic’s home ground is in Glasgow, Scotland. It was founded by Irish immigrants. So our story begins in . . . Albania.”

After that lead-in, how could you not want to watch?

Clover Films has done a remarkable job in this documentary series, with each episode appearing a few times a week on Al Jazeera (it is probably available on cable, but I don’t have it, so I watch on aljazeera.com), before becoming available on the documentary section of the Al Jazeera site.

The Celtic story begins in Albania thanks to the current Albanian president, Ilir Meta, being a Celtic fan and how he became one. It then pivots to the worldwide range of support Celtic has garnered over time. Without giving away spoilers, it deals with sectarianism and the symbiosis of football and politics that makes Celtic, well, Celtic.

Two items of special note are Lisbon Lion John Fallon, who recounts probably my all-time favorite Celtic story: Bertie Auld breaking into “The Celtic Song” — with the rest of the team joining in — in the tunnel before the 1967 European Cup match while their Inter Milan counterparts looked on curiously. And the segments in the film about Jay Beatty, whose childhood and adolescence seem intertwined with Celtic, are also very detailed and moving.

Clover Films has done a few documentaries in this series that are worth watching, as in “put down what you’re doing right now and watch this.”

The segment on FC St. Pauli is another gem, outlining the club’s history from one of the Nazi’s darlings in the ’30s to the paragon of antifascism it is today. Like Celtic, it paints a picture of a club with a worldwide reach due to their principles.

In addition, there are several Celtic “Easter eggs” in the FC St. Pauli documentary: Early on, there is a crowd shot where the fans are singing something to the tune of ” ’67 in the Heat of Lisbon,” the head of security in one shot is wearing a St. Pauli CSC cap, there is a group of Scots at the FC St. Pauli game talking about the club’s politics and how it aligns with theirs (and one of them is wearing a Celtic/FCSP scarf), and in the shot of the New York bar of St. Pauli supporters watching the Hamburg Derby where the group is singing “I Just Can’t Get Enough.”

There is one segment about Liverpool FC which shows how the club — and the city — overcame adversity over the years to rise to excellence, going in great detail about both the Thatcher administration’s hostility toward the city as well as the Hillsborough incident which took the lives of 96 fans.

Of special note is the documentary on Indonesia’s PSS Sleman. As Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, it is remarkable that women are in the forefront of the Sleman ultras, not to mention some of the demands they have made to the club to make it more fan-friendly to the point of holding boycotts.

Again, put down what you’re doing right now and watch each of these. You can thank me later.

And thank you, Clover Films, for a remarkable series.

One more thing

There’s been a tsunami of commentary about Neil Lennon’s departure, and rather than contribute a thimble of water in this giant wave, I would only like to add that the most tragic thing about the whole oredeal — yes, even more tragic than losing the 10 — is that Lennon’s career with Celtic might be defined by the dumpster fire this season has become, rather than being defined by his playing career and his successes in getting Celtic a hefty amount of silverware as a manager. I’d like to be wrong about this, and I would thank Lenny for his overall remarkable service to the club.

And personally I’d like to see Steve Clarke get the job once the season ends. Kilmarnock and the Scottish National Team have punched above their weight under his leadership, and it’s something we might need to get the club righted.

Saturday with the Sheep again. Mon the Hoops!

A tale of two masks

While I wait for my Celtic FC mask to come from the Celtic FC Store – the latest news is that they’re releasing them into the wild on 28 July and hopefully it will arrive on these shores a week later – I bought another green-and-white mask from an artist on RedBubble a few months ago that I wear nearly on a daily basis, with daily washings of course. With a face that is perfect for a mask, it looks like this:

Protecting a face only a mother could love against Covid-19 while wearing the Hoops . . . .

I also have a FC St. Pauli mask sent from Hamburg that I wear almost daily (same cleaning regimen) as well. It looks like this:

. . . and warding off the virus with a skull-and-crossbones, courtesy of FC St. Pauli.

In this new era of mandatory facialwear, it is common to see people wearing masks of their favourite sports teams; here it would be baseball or American football or basketball. In my current jobs as a freelance writer and as a part-time supermarket bookkeeper, I get a hefty dose of interaction with the public, especially at the supermarket.

In broad terms, the computer engineers I mostly work with in writing software/hardware documentation are not the most football-fanatic people, as you might imagine, and they don’t really care what’s on my face.

But the general public that come into the store? Well, that’s another, and slightly different, story.

The supermarket I work in is in a small town in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Silicon Valley. Many people live here and work there and there are a few football fans in the area, mostly fans of the nearby MLS franchise, the San Jose Earthquakes.

Other than Mike, a regular customer to the store and a fan so beholden to FC Bayern Munchen that he often wears the full adidas Bayern training kit into the store (while handing out Bayern stickers to anyone who wants one), I don’t come across many people I personally know who follow football.

However, there are some who visit the store who wear their allegiances on their clothes – caps, T-shirts, etc. – and the occasional kid with his favorite team jersey; one kid, who I call Ronaldo, comes in wearing a Juventus jersey all the time.

In any case, I always strike up conversations with people I think may even remotely have an interest in football because, well, there’s not that many of us around. And even those who aren’t: One day, a woman came in to exchange a product and I noticed she had a Saltire on her wallet.

“Ah, you’re Scottish,” I said.

She nodded. I smiled underneath my mask.

“Do these green-and-white stripes mean anything to you?” I asked, pointing to my face.

She just looked at me and said, “No.”

Definitely a Rangers fan.

Then there’s the Liverpool FC fans. I’ve encountered several at the store over the past few months. I am always gracious, truthfully so, in bringing up what a good manager Jurgen Klopp is (and he is), while congratulating them on having a great season in winning the league (which they did).

When my support for Celtic comes up, they always respond – every time and without fail — with something about . . . Steven Gerrard.

Every. Damn. Time.

“Right, the manager who can’t win a trophy to save his life,” is my most common response.

Or, “Right, the guy who slipped against Chelsea and lost the title for The Reds.”

Or, mostly to myself, “Yeah, well, maybe you should walk alone. Off a cliff.”

The FC St Pauli mask does not get many responses, other than fear because of the skull-and-crossbones. However, I did have a conversation with a German woman who, seeing my FC St. Pauli mask, was surprised that anyone in the U.S. would even remotely consider supporting Die Kiezkicker. But yep, here we are – flying the antifascist flag even in small towns in America.

Nevertheless, if you’re going to cover your face – and you should – you might as well make a statement, and supporting your club (or clubs) is the best way to go.

[Blogger’s note: Thanks to a glitch that originated, I think, either with my ISP’s transfer of this site to a new server or a boneheaded move on my part adjusting my WordPress settings, two recent blog posts — here and here — regarding Celtic’s games in France did not appear on the Celtic News Now feed. Fearing that I had been unceremoniously waived by the Hoops news aggregator, I later found that it was a setting, not my writing, that was the culprit.]