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!