Celtic Park is one of the loudest stadiums in Europe. On nights against the best that the continent has to offer, the stadium becomes a cauldron as 60,000 supporters serenade the players with chant after song, laced with enchanting history and an unrivalled passion. It is truly magical.
For years, that vociferous support and the lullabies and battle cries made Paradise a fortress in European football. However, since reaching the lofty heights of the UEFA Champions League knockout stages in 2013, the atmosphere has only been able to impact on a few games at that level; a mark of the increasing financial disparity between ourselves and those who ply their trade in more lucrative leagues.
Though the atmosphere can only take the team so far, it remains an iconic feature of the matchday experience at Parkhead. The envy of many clubs around the world, the noise levels in Paradise can unsettle opposition players and enable Celtic to get an early goal. We witnessed something along those lines last night, as the stadium was at its earsplitting best and the Bhoys created three excellent opportunities in the opening 22 minutes. Unfortunately, the much needed opening goal didn’t arrive and the game took a different complexion, but it demonstrated the part that the world famous Celtic support still has to play.
That is something that Florian Wirtz alluded to in his post match comments with the Daily Record. The German wonderkid told the newspaper:
“At first, there was an incredible atmosphere in the stadium. You have to get used to it, but once I did, it was fun to play here. Then when we managed to get into the game and score some goals, it became even more fun. I loved it because it was consistently loud.”
Wirtz bagged Bayer Leverkusen’s second goal of the evening with a composed finished from just inside the box. At the opposite end of the pitch, Lukáš Hrádecký was exceptional between the sticks. He also took a moment to speak to the Daily Record about the atmosphere, ranking the experience very highly:
“The atmosphere helped get the best out of me,” he said.
“I would put this match as one of my top three experiences in football. I managed to make a few saves and they were at important moments at the start of both halves. But after we scored our third goal, we had the match under control. And it was another outstanding performance from us.
“Hopefully, in Germany, we will slowly go in this direction again. There is nothing better. What gave me the most joy was playing in front of a full stadium. I loved it.”