Liam Kelly’s Memories Of Watching Celtic Abroad For The First Time: Misfortune In Munich concludes…
The next morning we rose early to get our drink in for the day. However, everything from lager to vodka had gone by 9am. Thus, I had to invest in a disgusting cherry liqueur. We headed to the square to meet Stripey Cat, his brother and his pal Neil. Neil was a university professor, who quit his job to become a full time drinker. This was his first trip to see Celtic since the 70s as he had asked Stripey if he could come along for the craic. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as this drunken eccentric man, wearing a full suit with a Celtic shirt over the top, sporting a beard and a baseball cap – stood before me. This whole trip was madness.
Thousands more gathered in the square, underneath the 25c blazing sun. The atmosphere had been brilliant all day and Stripey was entertaining us with some cracking one liners. He collected our match tickets and returned to the square just in time to commentate on one man’s misfortune as he downed a pint before immediately taking to one knee to regurgitate it right back into the glass. Stripey stood there, hand on his shoulder and said “This man’s a professional. That’s a man of experience, minimal mess. Learn from this Liam, if you want to drink that’s how you do it.” The poor guy kept the glass over his face like a dog’s muzzle shouting what I managed to deduce ” …. off pal,” before his cup overflowed and the contents dribbled down his whiskers!
By 5pm the square erupted – flares were lit, drums were thumped and everyone went wild for the Stuart Armstrong Song. It was one of the best moments in my time supporting Celtic.
When the song finally abated, after a good half an hour, the Celtic hoards headed down the escalators to the underground toward the Allianz Arena. Once in the train station, the drums were beating again and the fans bounced to the tune of This Is This The Day That We Win Away:
At this point, myself and Stripey Cat became separated from the others in the crowds and headed for the train. It was a sweaty overcrowded carriage, shaking to the chorus of Willie Maley and all the usual classics. 30 minutes later, we arrived at the required station.
The police lined us up there for an escort, which prompted the Green Brigade to co-ordinate everyone in overhead clapping as we chanted Celtic, Celtic, Celtic, Celtic. This army of green and white rose up the escalators and along the platform. The police marched us through a subway when the noise hit a crescendo with a return to This Is The Day. Munich fans looked on in awe, applauding this crowd of drunken mad men and women, enjoying themselves.
We walked and walked for an age, until this glowing red bowl could be seen at the top of the hill. Stripey and myself had tickets for the home end, but got through the security checks and scanned our ticket at the turnstyle, which worked, despite being at the away section.
We got into the ground and just had to make it past one more security guard to the Celtic section. Yet we were curtailed. The steward spotted our tickets and sent us round to the correct section. It was right on the edge of the segregation divide, so we took our seats and bode our time.
“Liam, go for it, get your backside up the top,” Stripey remarked. He had spotted that the segregation fence only went up as far as the second last row. The policeman had left his post at the top of the stairs and it was our cue to run up and get across to the Celtic support. We were in.
The Celtic end was rocking to the sound of ‘We’re Glasgow Celtic’ as the game kicked off. Then that infamous Jimmy Bell song was sung and Stripey threw his hands about like a choir conductor signalling the end of a song: “Negative energy, that’s negative energy!” Moments later, Bayern took the lead through Muller. Though, obviously not pleased, I couldn’t help but laugh as Stripey Cat started reprimanding those around him claiming that we had gone behind because of that song and the negative energy that it gives out! This was the first time that I’d met Stripey and my convictions that he is a nutter were correct.
It was shortly 2-0 to Bayern and at that stage it’s pretty clear that it’s game over. Regardless, it didn’t stop the party as even after Lewandowski added a third, the Celtic support gave a wonderful rendition of the Heat Of Lisbon with the phone lights in the air, before breaking into a huddle. What a support we have on nights like this.
With Celtic beaten 3-0, our attention turned to finding Paul and the others after the game. We did so outside the ground, which is on a motorway. Stripey, in his infinite wisdom, stepped out and flagged down a taxi – that was us on our way… to a petrol garage for a few bags of cans. We spent the night drinking and having a laugh with plenty of other fans, before Stripey’s brother and Neil disappeared. Stripey had their room key so was in no rush to contact them, but we fortunately stumbled across the pair, who were dancing in a shisha bar, a few hours later.
At the end of that night, I headed out for my first meal of the trip – Burger King. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I sat with my food, only to be confronted by our German, middle finger giving friend, that we met on our first day. He came over gesturing 3-0, laughing in my face, before some other Celtic fans told him the universally understood instruction “Get tae France pal.”
That was quite enough drama for the trip. Yet, as we woke up homeless once more, we were far from out of the woods. We weren’t leaving until Friday, so we had to find a cheap room for the night to stay within budget. We trecked up to Wombats hostel, where thankfully they had two spares beds in a dorm, as the Celtic fans occupying it were going home. We dropped our bags in there and headed down to the square, where the last remaining Celtic fans were playing rave music from a speaker with a carry out as they waited for a bus to Berlin Airport.
Finally, it was Friday morning and time to go home. Paul had booked the flights to Luton, so I’d booked a National Express bus to get us back to Bournemouth from there. However, when he presented me with my boarding pass, it said Gatwick on the ticket! I looked at the floor in disbelief… he’d booked himself to fly to Luton and me to Gatwick. I was forced to make a phone call to a friend back home. He agreed to drive up to Luton to collect Paul, then they would come to Gatwick to get me, before driving us home.
Whilst waiting for Paul at Luton, my pal hadn’t read the signs properly about the pick up zone. Little did he realise that he wasn’t being charged the five pounds expected. Oh no, he was charged for every minute that he waited – £48!
I couldn’t believe the catalogue of errors, the mental characters we had met and the craziness of the trip. The gig, the square and the atmosphere in the ground was phenomenal. The match itself was dreadful and the issues with the hotel were a nightmare. Looking back now, I can laugh, but at the time it wasn’t even remotely funny.
We would do it all again the next season in Athens!