7 March 2020 – the last day fans gathered at Celtic Park to see their team in action. You don’t need to attend games to be a committed Celtic fan, many live far from Glasgow and others cannot get to games for a variety of reasons, but thousands of us will not have gone so long without seeing Celtic in the flesh since infancy. We are now all armchair fans.
There are parallels in our personal lives; we are armchair sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and parents, work from home colleagues. We are not all sociable creatures; I know some who are quite happy in their cocoon, but for many, this has been a trying time in their personal lives, even more so without the ceremonies of supporting Celtic.
For me, that means getting together with three generations of the family, it gives us a common currency we can spend in each other’s market. Truth is, nothing else allows us to bond in the same way. It is not the same by text, not even close.
The family thing is all good and well, but why do you and I bond, when do we bond as the Celtic Movement? For some, Celtic speaks to our ancestry, but that’s an influence that is significantly less than when I first stood at Celtic Park. I know there are some who found us through the Lisbon Lions all those years ago. This month I met a Syrian fan. He had worked various grounds as a steward and found a home for his sporting heart in the process. I also know a born contrarian, who from the age of 7 decided the team her (cherished) father despised was the one she would follow all her life.
Whatever brought you to Celtic, Celtic has an influence on our world view, almost without exception. We are a community, formed to help the starving. The more fans you meet, the more influenced you become in adopting this core value. There is not another club in the world (unless some outfit from Gibraltar claims otherwise) that has a call to action as noble as this.
In March, Celtic FC Foundation launched its Football for Good Fund. The world changed, which had two consequences for your Foundation, there would be no badge day, no bucket collection, no mountain top huddle or arctic trek, but the needy, the lonely, the isolated and the vulnerable would multiple.
The Fund raised over £1m, £250k of which came during the Christmas Appeal phase, how this was achieved in these circumstances is difficult to comprehend, unless you consider the values of those who cherish it.
Where was the money spent? You know the kids whose parents do not have a spare penny? 2,272 of them received Christmas gifts for their children and another 376 vulnerable families received ‘an envelope’ to help them through. Another £30k was distributed through 10 children and family charities.
11 homeless charities, four refugee charities, and three women’s aid charities were also given cash. Hampers were given to vulnerable elderly and families, and toys given to organisations who know where to find kids who go without.
The Welfare State is over 70 years old but like any massive apparatus, there are cracks and limits through which thousands fall. You need to be on the ground to find those who cannot be found by policy. The Celtic FC Foundation is a chain linking those of us who have with those who have not. It is relentless in pursuing the values we were founded upon. Staffed by people who endure the delight and turmoil of supporting Celtic, but who know too well the consequences when our community cannot gather, for those who count on us for a Christmas toy.
You can be proud of these values and the community you have fortified. It will outlast all of us and will benefit more lives than you will ever know. But next year, champions again or not, those of us who have, need to do more, because the metrics are not getting better.
With or without your loved ones, take care and have a happy Christmas.