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THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
The following is from an anonymous Celtic fan.

The following is from an anonymous Celtic fan. It is a must read for Celtic fans as it chronicles one Celtic fan's very personal experiences on the night history was made – Tuesday 21st November 2006, CELTIC 1 Manchester United 0.

From the start of the season I've felt that something special might happen this campaign. The reason is a mixture of personal circumstances and the fact that Champions League football has returned to Paradise. Remarkably this season looks like following another special year in my lifetime. It's seems that the fortunes of Celtic are inextricably linked with highs in my life away from football. For that reason I was optimistic about this season.

I'll say from the outset that previously I was not great fan of Strachan. After the disaster in Artmedia, Strachan had me in utter despair. I'm no tourist Tim - you're more likely to find me in the Dundee Social club and such places on domestic duty than in the Espalades of European places (or whatever the f*ck they are called).

However there is one thing I've come to expect from Celtic Football Club in recent years and that is the diet of Champions League Football. The SPL might be our bread and butter, but in the cold winter nights the Champions League is our pig roasting and crackling on the fire. Last year we got the equivalent of a cold bacon sandwich. I was looking for Strachan to make up for it this year with the full feast topped off with the apple in the pigs mouth. On Tuesday the 21st of November, there could be nothing more desirable, more inviting and more succulent that dining on one of the greatest feasts of all. Manchester United.

I had a feeling before the game that something special was going to be served up in Paradise. Normally I will head to the Gallowgate on European nights (as opposed to the Tall-Cranes in Govan for the domestic fare), however it wasn't the effects of beer I wanted to pass through my body tonight. I was after the ultimate high and a victory over Man Utd would propel a feeling through my body that nothing else could match.

For this reason I was eager to savour every flavour and indulge every sense. I arrived at Celtic Park at about 4.00pm. The wind was sharp and the temperature chillingly low but the sky was a beautiful blue (if blue can ever be beautiful!). As I took a photo of the Brother Walfrid statue I'm sure I saw his hand moving down to ensure that his bronze balls had not fallen off:

I decided the best course of action to save my own balls from such a fate was to move around Celtic Park and take in what else was happening. There were a few other supporters milling around the stadium. Most notable was a woman with her young daughter who was waiting to get some signatures of the Man Utd superstars. This more than 2 hours before they would arrive. Such dedication could only be applauded. We'll see later if she got her rewards….

By this time you could feel the charge starting to build up as more and more people were being drawn to centre of the universe – Paradise. Tonight we might feel something electric. The Champions League atmosphere was starting to spread outwards from Celtic Park and everyone who came within a 1 mile radius would feel it's effect. Not even Brother Walfrid could escape its pull.

Darkness was now beginning to fall on Celtic Park and with it the temperature dropped further. It was the other side of 5.00pm now and I headed for the blessedly warm confines of the Celtic shop where I was to meet my brother. He arrived wearing more layers than there is from the core of the earth to the highest mountain peak. We stood in the Celtic shop for a good 30 minutes. The passing staff occasionally cast my brother the odd suspicious glance no doubt thinking he had 15 Celtic tops underneath his top layer. It didn't help that he was now beginning to sweat profusely. As we eventually left the guard at the door looked ready to pounce if any security tag were to set off the alarm.

We next made our way to the front of the stadium and took our place on the small fence. The crowd was starting to grow and we realised that the teams would soon arrive. I'd seen it all before so knew that the best position was to the left of the main entrance as you face it and advised a few young boys to get in the front. The lads were only about 9 or ten. Young scamps dressed only in tracksuits and with a Celtic scarf to keep them warm. A few had bits of card with black markers – no doubt swiped from a teacher's desk that very morning. “I'm gonnae get Rooney and Ronaldo to sign it” the wee fella eagerly informs the people around him. “Fuck that,” my brother says “I'll be giving the cunts pelters – fucking heavy duty”. I wonder who is the biggest wean and tell me brother that to give it a rest for the sake of the weans. “Aye you're probably right,” he says.

Just as he finishes two polis horses come galloping from the East end of the stadium. Unfortunately the two riders must have received their training based on the 1980 Scottish Cup Final. They were looking to trample anyone who trespassed within the 5-metre safety zone radius they were intent on maintaining. It was a bit pish for all the weans who were just wanting to greet their heroes and I noticed the young girl from earlier. She looked utterly dejected knowing that there was no chance she would get near the teams coming off the bus. It was fun though watching the wee feckers wind up the polis. Now and then the polis would struggle to control the horse and it would wheel around in the opposite direction. When this happened the bhoys would shuffle along a few yards – encroaching like a wall at a free kick. The polis would regain their balance and try to push the wall back but each time they seemed to gain an extra foot or so.

The Celtic bus arrived first to a great cheer as the players disembarked. “Tonight you can be heroes,” shouted an old guy who judging from his age would have seen plenty of heroes from the illustrious golden era of the Lions. The Celtic bus was no sooner emptied than the Man U bus arrived. Despite being Celtic supporters the youngsters were after the autographs of the superstars. The wee fella from earlier held out his bit of card flapping it clumsily like a new bird testing it's wings for the first time. “Rooney – over here Wayne please mate, Wayne mate, please mate!!!” Rooney never even glanced in his direction. And so the red mist descended and we saw the true face of this loveable rogue. In a second he changed from a little angel to a wee bastard. “Oh f*ck you Rooney ya shrek bastard!!” and his mate piped in with his own addendum “Aye away and shag a granny!!” You could only laugh. My brother turns and says, “And you asked me to behave for their sake….OH YOU CANNY SHAG YIR GRANNY ON A BUS….” he sings for a wee variation on and old favourite.

As the crowds start to disperse we make our way into the stadium. The stands were eerily empty but even then was something starting to grow in the stadium. One wondered if the spirits of every supporter past and present who have passed through Parkhead's gates were also gathering in the stadium.

It's difficult to put into words the way that events unfolded last night, but the pieces for the most perfectly snug jigsaw just seemed to come into sight as you needed to fit them. Before the teams came out the Jungle Boys flag display started out as a small ripple, then it was a flurry before breaking into massive waves of colour. It was like one of these arctic nesting grounds as thousands and thousands of birds huddle together jostling for the best space. The noise accompanying the display was similar to the young demanding to be fed:

And as the ball boys laid the table in Paradise with the CL table cloth, the guests of honour for the banquet arrived. Did the Celtic players have the hunger to match our appetite?

The Celtic team went into their huddle while the rest of us rose from our seats to acknowledge them. Perhaps I was overly anxious last night but I thought the huddle went on for an eternity:

The Man Utd team, who have played at the very highest level and in the most intimidating of atmospheres, must have wondered what they had walked into. Surely the unthinkable could not happen to Man Utd tonight. Do Celtic not realise who we are - Rooney, Ronaldo, Scholes, Giggs, Saha? Have these supporters not idea who they are facing tonight? In his post match press conference Ferguson used words like “melted in the atmosphere” to describe how Benfica had faired. But this wasn't Benfica. This was Man Utd – the biggest team in the world. Well tonight the Celtic support were not interested in the reputation of Man Utd. Tonight we wanted to increase the reputation of Glasgow Celtic. The Green Brigade summed it up perfectly with a banner of their own:

In every seat of the stadium there seemed to be something projecting from the stands to the park. At the moment there were two nuclei – the Celtic team on the Park and the support in the stands. Man Utd didn't think for a minute that these two nuclei would ever collide….

If that was to happen it didn't bare thinking about the result of such a collision. The Celtic support give the 11 players on the park an extra boost: an extra yard in every sprint, an extra strength in every tackle, an extra leap in every jump, an extra power with every shot. Most of all we give the team an extra belief in themselves. On this night as that extra man it was our role to help them achieve something extra special. The atmosphere building up to kick off was that special feeling we've all tried to put into words and find that we always fail to do it justice – riding a bike for the very first time, feeling your heart flutter for your first love, hearing your child say their first word or watch them taking their first step. Moments that you can instantly recall in years to come. These are moments that made you proud and last night was a moment when the pride was bursting out of the Celtic support. This lad sums up perfectly how we would feel at the final whistle:

Before we get to the end of the journey we must take our first step. We have to be brutally honest about our performance in the first half - which Gordon Strachan referred to as trying to “fit square pegs in round holes”. To be honest it was worse than that, much worse. It reminded me of a trick I used to do with my auntie's cat when I was a young lad. With a torch in hand I would proceed to flash the beam across the room and watch the cat pounce after it – it's sharp claws protracted as it bounded down on the focal point only to find the light escape it's grasp. Next minute the beam was moving up the curtains and the cat was speeding up after it with so much momentum it crashed into the ceiling before falling to the floor. In the first half Celtic were that cat and on a few occasions the screams from the crowd were chillingly reminiscent to the cat's horrific noise as it careered into the patio door. Man United were flashing the ball around like the torch light and the Celtic midfield were getting more exasperated with each pass they failed to intercept.

Fortunately for us Man U were unable to do anything more with the ball that irritate the Celtic team and crowd. There was no end product but fortunately we managed to make the halftime interval without conceding. Our midfield had no balance in the first half but Strachan was about to change that and in doing so tip the scales in Celtic's direction.

Celtic started the second half with renewed energy. The nuclear particle that was the support had already shown movement in the first half and now the other particle that was the team was doing likewise. We were beginning to take the game to Man Utd and now and again they appeared rattled. The Celtic support could sense that we were about to be at the centre of something special. “We'll walk a million miles for one of your goals…..oh Celtic” started a chant from the Jock Stein stand that spread around the stadium like the Spring thaw. The cold night was about to be warmed ….

For most of the game Celtic had been on the ropes. In the first half it was as if we were happy to let Man Utd throw all their punches at us. Despite Man Utd expending much energy they never really harmed us. We did little to resist except to occasionally venture into the final third of the park. However in the 2nd half we began to make contact and tried to out-wrestle Man U. Man U were starting to feel the effects of the occasional hard and fast jabs Celtic were looking to throw. It was then and only then that Celtic landed the final combination.

Naka stood over the free-kick. The crowd drew in a breath and Naka was drawn backwards like a catapult. We exhaled and Naka was propelled forward. His perfect impact lifted the ball over the wall. It drifted over the Man U players and made maximum use of the magnus effect (check Wikipedia for what I mean) as it made it's way towards the rigging of the goal. The Man U players in the wall turned and watched it in slow motion like the spectators in a Rocky film. Van Der Sar then played the roll of the Foreman in 1974. He'd received the left hook but it was still to register with him and he had not yet hit the canvas. He grasped for the ball like a boxer for the ropes but it was too late. He'd seen it coming but he couldn't do anything about it. Forever more this moment would be known as “Rumble in the Celtic Jungle”

All around the stadium the crowd turned to each other daring to ask if the punch had landed. As the net bulged and Van der Sar landed on the turf there was only one answer. Suddenly the Celtic team and the Celtic support collided as one. The reaction was nuclear. Supporters were lifted out of the stands and projected several rows forward, backwards and sideways. It was absolute bedlam - specs were broken, mobile phones smashed, keys to cars lost, and a few bruises gained as arms flew in every direction. The Celtic support were like soldiers emerging from the trenches for an Over the Top attack.

After finding my row again I embraced my brother and we formed a min-huddle with the two bhoys beside us. We danced around in a circle just screaming at each other with some made up war cry. This was the 6-2 game and Boavista merged into one magical moment.

We were still celebrating as Man Utd were awarded their penalty. Wait a minute George Foreman never made the ten count in Zaire. Ali won the fight. Surely this bad dream cannot be happening. As we looked on in utter disbelief Neil Lennon took all our frustrations out on the park. He screamed at the referee and then rushed to the penalty spot and booted the ball into the main stand. We thought we had won the fight but here were our opponents picking themselves up off the floor. The Celtic players were incensed – this wasn't fair – Man U were given more than a ten count and were being assisted by a corrupt referee. Celtic players could be seen to lash out at their Man U counterparts. Gravesen in particular was involved in jostling at the edge of the box. I'm pretty sure he kicked the muck on the surface at Saha before he took the penalty.

It's been said that Saha had lost the place by the time he took the penalty. Like Foreman he probably should have stayed on the canvas. He was shell-shocked and in no state to continue. As he struck his penalty he realised he didn't have any power or accuracy left in his punch. Boruc danced on his line like a fighter sparring in the ring. He then moved to the side like a fighter so fresh in the very first round of a fight. He had saved it!! Celtic Park erupted again. Saha fell to the ground and this time neither he nor his team-mates would recover. 7….8…..9…..10. They looked over to their corner beside the Celtic tunnel. Ferguson had no answer for them. He couldn't help them to get up.

It was over. All that was left now was for Ferguson to throw his white towel onto the pitch. It was over and Celtic had emerged triumphant from the Rumble in the Jungle

The final whistle followed soon after and the Celtic supporters celebrated on this historic night. There was an extremely emotional Walk On. I was shivering but it wasn't because of the cold. I took one final video of the evening and right at the end there is an image of an older guy and I presume his son. The older guy had probably seen such a night when Celtic defeated Leeds. Tonight it was his son's time to experience his Leeds United. The image of the two of them at the end summed up perfectly what it meant to every Celtic supporter to win the game:

THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE

By Anonymous Celt



Posted by voc1967 on Wednesday 18 September 2019 - 13:21:12 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
 
 
 
 
 
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