For former players like Didier Agathe and Stéphane Mahé, Paris Saint-Germain’s trip to Celtic Park is becoming the perfect opportunity for them to reminisce about their time in Glasgow, as the French media bombard them with questions about their time there.
On Monday, Le Parisien contacted them about the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, while L’Equipe on Tuesday, the day of the game, have a chat with them about the Scottish Premiership champions’ stadium.
The Celtic Park atmosphere is renowned around the world, and, other than the near guarantee of domestic titles, it’s what attracts a lot of players to signing for the club, something the board are fully aware of, as explained by the aforementioned Agathe.
He said: ”When I signed my Celtic contract, the board then took me to the deserted stands and left me there, by myself, for half an hour. It was really impressive. Looking around me, I felt the stadium’s soul and the weight of its history.”
However, as imposing as the stadium and its main stand are, it’s what the fans do inside it that really sticks in the mind of players, especially their rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, which Stéphane Mahé, who played for Cetlic between 1997-2001, still remembers to this day.
He said: “You start to hear the You’ll Never Walk Alone when you’re in the tunnel, then you get on the pitch, and you see the whole crowd singing, holding their green and white scarves. It’s magical. Then we go to our side of the pitch to form a huddle, and the captain gives his instructions.
“At that moment, it feels like the crowd’s songs surround the team. It’s a real bonding moment between the players and the fans. They never stop screaming, singing, roaring the players’ names in a stadium that resembles a huge soundbox.”
With songs for (nearly) every player, footballers who spend time at Celtic always seem to feel a special connection with the fans, who sometimes carry the team ‘like a wave’ to win in difficult games, as explained by Diomansy Kamara, remembering a 2-1 win against Rangers in 2010.
To end, John Collins, who spent six years at Celtic between 1990-1996, reassures Paris Saint-Germain players about it all: “If Paris Saint-Germain play good football and score nice goals, they’ll be applauded by Celtic Park.”
As Steven Mouyokolo says: “That’s why I wanted to become a professional football player, to experience these moments. The football I dreamt of, it’s exactly that.”
Brendan Rodgers will be hoping Celtic Park can roar his men on tonight, and perhaps even intimidate the big stars of PSG.