“Hail Hail The Celts Are Here”
It was announced earlier today that Celtic Football Club will soon be travelling to Germany for a pre-season tour of the country, featuring in three games during their stay.
The first match, against F.C. Augsburg, is now less than a fortnight away, with the Bhoys taking on the Bundesliga outfit on the 10th July. Augsburg finished a very respectable 14th in the Bundesliga last season, and their stadium, the SGL Arena, has a capacity of over 30,000. Having been promoted in 2010-2011, Augsburg have done well to keep themselves in the top flight of German football, alongside the likes of Champions League runners up Bayern Munich, and Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund (who successfully defended their title last season).
Fans of F.C. Augsburg will undoubtedly be looking forward to this match as much as the rest of us, as their new manager, German Markus Weinzierl, takes control of the team for the first time. This will be the first occasion on which the two clubs will have met, and I’m sure any Celtic supporters who travel to Germany will receive a warm welcome, from the fans of the club originally founded in 1907.
Only five days later, on the 15th July, Celtic will once again take to the field in Germany, as they take on third division side Stuttgart Kickers. Formed in 1899, the club was born as it’s founders decided to turn their backs on rugby and play only football (both games were still developing and vying for players at that time). This choice is reflected in the club’s name to this day.
The club, who have twice made forays into the Bundesliga, in both 1988-89 and 1991-92, were relegated after only one season on both occasions. They also made it to the German Cup Final in 1987, but were beaten 3-1 by Hamburg in front of over 75,000 people in Berlin. Nowadays, the Stuttgart Kickers play at a much lower level, but have seem some progress of late, and having won their regional division in the season just ended, they have been promoted back into the third division.
Currently, the team play their football at the Gazi-Stadion auf der Waldau, the second largest stadium in Stuttgart, which is capable of holding more than 10,000 spectators (mostly on terracing).
Finally, Celtic will finish of their pre-season tour of Germany with a tie against VfR Aalen (on the 17th July), the side who finished second in the “3. Liga” (the third division) last season, winning promotion to the “2. Bundesliga” (the second division) for the first time in their history. Formed in 1921, the club has spent all of its life in the lower leagues of German football, but is now undoubtedly on the rise.
The club plays at the Scholz Arena, most commonly known as the Rohrwang, a stadium with a capacity of over 11,000. Boasting over 4,500 seats, the ground has recently undergone developments to make it fit for the second tier of German Football, including lighting upgrades, pitch improvements, and other work.
With a team featuring players from South America, Italy and (obviously) Germany, VfR Aalen will be one to watch in the coming years, and undoubtedly the friendly tie with Celtic will be enjoyed by all those involved.
Celtic will then continue their pre-season with an away match against Ajax (21st July, 6pm), a home match against Norwich City (24th July, 7.45pm) and a glamour tie in the United States against La Liga Champions Real Madrid (11th August, 6.30pm). There is also some speculation that more matches may be announced.
Celtic kick off their Scottish Premier League title defence on the 4th August (3pm), with a match against Aberdeen at Celtic Park. This match will also see the unfurling of the Championship flag by Celtic great, Sean Fallon.
And may I just say, after writing my first article about Celtic for a few weeks, I am thoroughly looking forward to another football season starting.