The South American Connection

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Mark’s articles are a reminder that Celtic have played a number of South American sides in the past and in this article we will concentrate in the more recent encounters.

1966 Atlas (Mexico) 0-1 Celtic

Celtic’s last game of a long American tour came against the Mexicans of Atlas in Los Angeles with Bobby Lennox grabbing the only goal.

1967 Celtic 2-1 Penarol

Penarol of Uruguay came to Parkhead as reigning world club champions and put up a fine show in front of the Celtic crowd. The reason for their visit was that Celtic required experience of playing against South American opposition before their ill fated inter continental games against Racing Club.

1967 Celtic 1-0 Racing Club (Hampden)

1967 Racing Club 2-1 Celtic (Buenos Aires)

1967 Racing Club 1-0 Celtic (Montivideo)

Much has been said about the violent encounters with the Argentinians of Racing and nothing will be gained by further examination.

1968 Necaxa (Mexico) 3-2 Celtic

After beating AC Milan in Toronto Celtic travelled South to Mexico to sample playing at altitude in Mexico City. Because of the difference in altitude some of the Celtic party had difficulty breathing properly and this seems to have affected the players during the match. At half-time Celtic were 3-1 down, Billy McNeill heading Celtic’s only goal. During the half-time break the Celtic players were given oxygen and they played a bit better in the 2nd half – Wallace scoring to make the final score 3-2 to Necaxa.

Aftterwards the players took a cultural excursion to the Mexican pyramids and visited the shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. The next day the party departed for the long return journey to Glasgow and arrived back at the old Abbotsinch airport in Paisley (now Glasgow Airport).

1971 Celtic 3-0 Nacional

In September 1971 the Uruguayan giants of Nacional came to Parkhead to play a game to commemorate the opening of the new main stand at Celtic Park, the great James McGrory opening the stand in a special ceremony. However Nacional were here for another reason. As South American champions they were here to experience European opposition before their Intercontinental cup games against Panathinaikos. Although the Greeks had been runners up to the great Ajax side of the Cruyff era the Dutch side declined to take part and thus Nacional defeated Ferenc Puskas’ Greek side to became world club champions for the first time.

This was an entertaining game played in front of a huge 60,000 crowd and Lennox (2) and Callaghan scored the Celtic goals.

1973 Celtic 3-1 Penarol

Our friends from Penarol returned to Glasgow and lost 3-1 in another entertaining match. Kenny Dalglish had came to the fore by this time and he scored along with Deans and Lennox. The legendary Uruguayan striker Fernando Morena scored for Penarol.

1976 Celtic 3-0 Penarol

Penarol returned for a third and final time on a hot sunny day in August 1976. On this occasion a young George McCluskey opened the scoring with a penalty with Dalglish and Lennox rounding off the scoring. Penarol, in their distinctive yellow and black stripes, were again most entertaining visitors. Attendance: 39,000.

1988 Celtic 4-2 Cruzeiro

In 1988 the newspapers were full of stories regarding Celtic’s choice of opposition for a game to celebrate their centenary year. Rumours abounded of Inter Milan, Real Madrid or even the regular visitors of Man United paying homage to the Celts on their big day.

However to the bewilderment of their fans Celtic opted to play the little known Brazilians, Cruzeiro. The fans were left disappointed with the lack of glamorous opponents and although the game was entertaining there was a great sense of anti climax about the entire day. It is said that the Cruzeiro players were gobsmacked  when they saw the size of the crowd as they were expecting a low key pre season friendly. It didn’t help also that Cruzeiro played Hearts at Tynecastle 48 hours later which only increased the feeling of lack of ambition with the opposition provided.

Ian Andrews made his Parkhead debut as Walker and McAvennie grabbed two goals apiece.

1994 Celtic 1-1 Flamengo

Celtic and Flamengo met in Dublin for the first game in a glamour friendly double header in the summer of 1994. A large crowd of Irish Celtic fans turned out to support the Bhoys, who were given a bit of a chasing on the park, but from memory I’m sure Malky Mackay popped up in the last minute to give the Celts a credible draw.

1994 Celtic 2-2 Flamengo

A few days later Celtic’s year at Hampden began in optimistic fashion with a fine 2-2 draw with the excellent Brazilians. There was controversy when the game was almost postponed as officials from the Rio club insisted on payment in cash in American dollars before the game even began. It took a fine bit of diplomacy on the part of Fergus McCann to persuade them to play.

Andy Walker scored twice but the Brazilian winger Savio was the star of the night with a wonderful performance. So impressive was he that Celtic tabled a bid and were close to getting him. Tommy Burns was left frustrated when the deal collapsed and a few years later the bold Savio became so good he earned a move to the Bernabeau with Real Madrid.

2003 Boca Juniors 0-1 Celtic

By 2003 Celtic were spreading the brand globally and they faced the Argentinians of Boca in the unusual setting of Cleveland. Chris Sutton scored the only goal of the game. Interestingly, a young Carlos Tevez appeared as a substitute late on for Boca.

2006 Chivas 0-0 Celtic

Celtic’s second match of their ten-day pre-season tour of America ended in a goalless draw as Mexican side Chivas celebrated their centenary year at New Jersey’s Giants Stadium.

With a huge Scottish and Irish population living in and around the Big Apple, thousands of Hoops shirts and Celtic flags were visible in the sloping stands of the impressive Giants Stadium, on a balmy summer evening in New Jersey. Sadly the game was a dull 0-0 draw.

Over the years Celtic have generally enjoyed their games against the colourful and flamboyant South American teams who have provided fine entertainment. It was a great pity about Racing Club however.

Perhaps it’s now time for Celtic to consider a visit to Brazil or Argentina or even to bring the big South American sides over here for pre season games which have been noticeably dull in the last few years.

I wonder if Mark Cooper thinks this can be a possibility in the near future.

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Pictures are as follows (click on each image to see the enlarged version):

1. Andy Walker scores against Flamengo in 1994.

2.  The teams come out at Parkhead for Celtic v Nacional in 1971.

3. Dalglish and Lennox go close against Nacional.

4. The Celtic defence block an effort from the great Penarol star Alberto Spencer in September 1967.

7. Dalglish scores against Penarol in 1976.

6.. McNeill remonstrates with Racing players at Hampden on October 1967.

7. Tickets from the Penarol games in 1967 and 1976 and Nacional game in 1971. Best seats in the house for thirty bob…those were the days !

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