No Legia To Stand On: The Full Story Of The Saga Involving Celtic & Tonight’s Opposition

Celtic face Legia Warsaw in Poland this evening, in a testimonial match that has been organised for Artur Boruc. Beyond both clubs’ love for the player, the obvious stand out in many people’s minds was the saga involving both clubs back in 2014. It’s fair to say many Legia fans still harbour a grudge against Celtic.

Here’s the full story on how the issue unfolded…

Ronny Deila took over the reigns at Celtic Park with a new blueprint for the club and lofty modern ideas when it came to fitness. The new Celtic Manager had a positive pre-season and skipped past Icelandic side KR Reykjavic by way of a 5-0 aggregate scoreline in the opening round of Champions League qualification.

A man known for putting his faith in youth and working wonders on a shoestring budget, Deila drafted Callum McGregor into the team after a reasonably successful loan spell at League 2 club Notts County. The young Celt was on the scoresheet in Iceland and seized his opportunity in the second round of qualification against Legia Warsaw. McGregor started the first leg in Poland, on 30 July 2014, and cut in from the right-hand side to unleash a 30-yard shot on his favoured left foot. The ball flew inside the post and ended high into the net. It was a dream start for Celtic, who looked to be fulfilling former Polish Celt, Maciej Zurawiski’s prophecy that “The Hoops would have nothing to worry about against Legia Warsaw.” The dream became a nightmare two minutes later though, as the Pole’s drew level and then took charge of proceedings. Celtic were embarrassed by a 4-1 defeat and failed to make amends at Murrayfield in the second leg. This time the Bhoys fell to another defeat by two goals to nil.


Celtic had bowed out of the Champions League before the end of August for the second time in three years. Yet just as three years previous, the club was offered a European lifeline when it emerged that 86th minute substitute in the second leg, Bartosz Bereszynski, was in fact ineligible to play in the match as he should have been serving a suspension.

Bereszynski had been sent off for clashing with Apollon Limassol’s Gaston Sangoy during Legia’s final Europa League match of the previous season and was suspended for three games in European competition. He did not feature in the opening round of Champions League qualification against St Patrick’s Athletic, nor did he play in the first leg of the next round against Celtic. However, the player wasn’t included in Legia Warsaw’s squad registration for the 5-0 victory or 1-1 draw over St Patrick’s, which meant that his omission from the games did not count towards serving his suspension.

The administration error meant that UEFA awarded Celtic a 3-0 victory in the second leg, which resulted in a 4-4 aggregate scoreline, as opposed 6-1 in Legia Warsaw’s favour. Callum McGregor’s goal in the Polish capital then became crucial as it handed the Glasgow side victory in the tie by virtue of the away goals rule!

UEFA released a statement regarding the sanction on Friday 8 August 2014:

Legia have been sanctioned for fielding an ineligible player (article 18 of the UEFA Champions League regulations and article 21 of the disciplinary regulations). The match has been declared as forfeit meaning Legia Warsaw have lost the match 3-0. As a consequence, Celtic have qualified for the Champions League play-offs on away goals (agg: 4-4) and Legia will compete in the Europa League play-offs.

In addition, the player Bartosz Bereszynski, has been suspended for one additional UEFA competition match for which he would be otherwise eligible. This suspension shall be added to the remaining two match suspension which the player still has to serve in accordance with the control and disciplinary body decision of 13 February 2014.

Whilst the Scottish champions were drawn against NK Maribor on 8 August 2014, Legia Warsaw were plotting an appeal to present to European football’s governing body. In the intervening period, on 10 August, under-fire Legia Chairman, Dariusz Mioduski, held a press conference in which he issued an open letter urging Celtic officials to meet with him and “Do the honourable thing.” The Warsaw boss said: “We sent letters to Celtic asking for a meeting and their co-operation. Unfortunately, these have not been answered. I’m disgusted with Celtic’s position and how they have acted. I’ve been a big fan of Celtic before. Now I am disappointed. I’m surprised the board of Celtic has behaved this way. I will send an open letter to Celtic’s board today. We beat them and we’re proud of it. There is an Article 34 Paragraph 5 in the UEFA regulations that allows a fair play in such circumstances. I appeal to the men who have helped to establish the best traditions of honour and integrity over the last 126 years, that have been characterised by your great club. Do not destroy the beautiful heritage that you have been left from previous generations. We challenge you, in the spirit of the game and principles of fair play and on the basis of sport, to meet in Warsaw or in Glasgow, and let’s settle this matter with honour.”

Celtic responded to criticism from Legia Warsaw and the Polish FA with a succinct statement:

We are disappointed by Legia Warsaw’s comments. This is entirely a matter for UEFA and its processes. Accordingly, we will reserve further comment for the appropriate time.

Understandably, Legia supporters were disappointed at what had gone on, yet a minority undoubtedly overstepped the mark when it was reported that club administrator, Marta Ostrowska, had received death threats a day before UEFA’s hearing on the matter. Ostrowska and her family had to flee Warsaw, on the advice of police, until the matter had either been resolved or blown over. There was no respite for the Legia official on 14 August, when UEFA announced the outcome of their investigations regarding the Polish club’s appeal:

The UEFA Appeals Body met yesterday following an appeal by Legia Warszawa against the decision taken by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body on Aug. 8.

The appeal lodged by the Polish club was rejected and, therefore, the original decision of the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body is confirmed.

The Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body had sanctioned Legia for fielding a suspended player (Article 18 of the Regulations of the UEFA Champions League, 2014-15 competition, and Article 21 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, 2014 edition) in the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round return leg against Celtic FC in Edinburgh on Aug. 6. That match has been declared as a forfeit, meaning Legia lost 3-0.

After learning their fate, Legia announced that they would take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that afternoon. A tweet by the outspoken Dariusz Mioduski at 2.01pm on 14 August 2014 read: ‘Unfortunately for now football is not winning… we are going to CAS.’

Although Celtic didn’t have complete confirmation of their place in the Champions League until the ruling from CAS had been made, the club had to prepare for the trip to Slovenia and attempt to make the most of their second bite at the cherry. Ronny Deila was interviewed in the lead up to the match and when asked about the saga, the Celtic Manager said: “It is a tough decision and I really feel sorry for Legia but we have to go into the game and prepare for Maribor. The players want to play in the Champions League. It looks like we have been given another chance and I think it will be no problem to get the players up for the game.”

Confirmation did come through from CAS, on 18 August, that they had ruled against Legia Warsaw and that Celtic would indeed be playing against Maribor in Slovenia on the 20th. It was a decision that rankled with Dariusz Mioduski, who had the final word on the topic: “We know we will be playing in the Europa League. We accept that, but we will not give up on our pursuit on what we believe is justice for football.” Nevertheless, Legia professionally prepared to take on Khazakstani outfit, FC Aktobe, who they brushed aside with a 3-0 aggregate win. In the meantime, Celtic earned a relatively pleasing 1-1 draw in Stadion Ljudski vrt. Callum McGregor again put the Hoops ahead with an early goal when he smashed home Jo Inge Berget’s rebounded shot from close range. Yet the fragility at the heart of the Celtic defence was exposed as Zeljko Filipovic slid a pass between Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer for Bohar to tuck past the hitherto untroubled Craig Gordon. The Bhoys squandered second half chances but could return to Glasgow relatively pleased with a draw, an away goal, and having avoided a Legia-esque drama of their own as the Hoops had travelled to Slovenia without Efe Ambrose, wrongly believing him to be suspended! However, an uncanny administrative error was highlighted when it was confirmed that the Nigerian defender had fulfilled his ban and could join his teammates once special travel arrangements were put in place!

The return leg at Celtic Park, on the 26 August, epitomised the club’s diabolical qualification campaign. Celtic, playing in a quiet stadium due to the absence of the boycotting Green Brigade Ultras, suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to exit the competition for a second time. All eyes were now fixed on the Europa League draw and the question on everyone’s lips… will Celtic be paired with Legia Warsaw? Thankfully the clubs weren’t pitted against each other. Instead, Celtic faced Red Bull Salzburg, Dynamo Zagreb and Astra Giurgiu; a group from which Deila’s team successfully qualified in second place, after amassing a total of eight points. As for Legia, the Polish club topped their group with an impressive five wins from six games against Trabzonspor, K.S.C. Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen and FC Metalist Kharkiv. It was none too surprising when the draw for the knockout stages threw up the question of Celtic and Legia colliding once more. Again though, it wasn’t to be as the Celts were presented with a mouth-watering clash against Inter Milan; whilst Legia were drawn against opponents of equal European stature in the form of Ajax.

Finally, Ronny Deila got to experience the magic of a European night at Celtic Park when his Celtic team played superbly well to earn a 3-3 draw against the Italians. The match ebbed and flowed with Inter bursting into a 2-0 lead, before a quick-fire Stuart Armstrong double raised the roof and put Celtic level before the break. Inter restored the advantage early in the second half, but in typical Celtic fashion, John Guidetti thundered a volley into the top corner in the final minute of the match. Paradise reached a decibel level that hadn’t been heard for some time and it was hoped that this could be the springboard for Ronny Deila to propel his Celtic career forward. Guidetti summed up the evening with the following post-match comments: “The myths I have heard about Celtic Park on a European night are true.”

In the return leg at the San Siro, Virgyl Van Djik got himself sent off early in the game which presented Celtic with a mountainous task. Nevertheless, the Bhoys played manfully and only befell a 1-0 loss through a stunning long-range strike by Guarin in the 88th minute. Celtic had bowed out of a European competition for the third time that season, but they could do so with their heads held aloft on that occasion.

Legia Warsaw were dumped out of the Europa League, 4-0 on aggregate, against Ajax. The result brought any potential drama between Celtic and Legia to an end for that season.

About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up on the English south coast with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic during the Martin O'Neill era. I have written four Celtic books since the age of 19: Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support, Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events, Walfrid & The Bould Bhoys: Celtic's Founding Fathers, First Season & Early Stars, and The Holy Grounds of Glasgow Celtic: A Guide To Celtic Landmarks & Sites Of Interest. These were previously sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores, and are now available on Amazon.

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