Brother Walfrid’s Role In The Growth Of Scotland Soccer

Brother Walfrid’s Catholic Club Brings Scotland Soccer To The People

For he’s football crazy,
He’s football mad,
The football it has taken away
The little bit o’ sense he had,
And it would take a dozen servants
To wash his clothes and scrub,
Since Paul became a member of
That terrible football club.
Written by James Curran in 1900, Glaswegian born in Co. Donegal, Ireland

By Michael Durnan

Soccer has played a huge role in Scotland’s cultural and international identity. Scotland soccer is wildly popular both as a spectator sport and for recreation and fun.

Scotland soccer has played an important role in the life of Catholics, with at least two professional teams having originated from the Irish Catholic diaspora that settled in Scotland in the 19th century.  Since then the Scots have been ‘football crazy and football mad’ — especially true of the Scots Catholics and their support for their own clubs.


Brother Walfrid’s Catholic Club
Celtic of Glasgow in the west of Scotland and Hibernian in Edinburgh in the Lothian region are the two most famous clubs that have Irish Catholic origins. Celtic (pronounced with a soft C) was founded in 1888 by the Irish Marist Brother Walfrid with the purpose of alleviating poverty in the East End of Glasgow by raising money for a charity he’d instituted, Poor Children’s Dinner Table.

Brother Walfrid’s move to establish the club was inspired by the example of the Hibernian club in Edinburgh, founded by Irish Catholic immigrants some years before. Walfrid decided on the name ‘Celtic’ to reflect the Irish and Scottish roots of the club.
The newly established club earned the nickname, ‘The Bold Boys’ – today known as, ‘The Bhoys.’ (The extra ‘h’ imitates the Gaelic convention of spelling, where the letter b is often followed by h.)

Catholic vs. Protestant

On the 28th May, 1888, Celtic played their very first game against another Glasgow club, the Protestant Rangers. Celtic won, 5-2.

This would be the start of a passionate and deadly rivalry with sectarian and religious division adding intensity. In the legends since, it became known as ‘The Old Firm’ game, and one that either team is always loathe to lose.

Sadly, the passion and rivalry, intensified by religious division and bigotry, has been associated with alcohol- fueled violence between the battling fans both in and outside the stadia of both clubs. In recent years, both clubs have made progress in trying to reduce tensions between the rival sets of supporters; alcohol is now banned inside the stadia.

International Glory
It is since 1945 that Celtic has enjoyed its most distinguished period and success. The greatest single achievement of Celtic AFC was becoming Champions of Europe in 1967. Under the management of a former player, Jock Stein, Celtic won the Scottish League title nine times from 1966 to 1974. Celtic’s annus mirabilis came under Stein’s management when in 1967 they won every competition they entered: The Scottish League, The Scottish FA Cup, The Glasgow Cup and the greatest of all, The European Champions Cup.

Finally, playing Inter-Milan of Italy, in the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon, Portugal, Celtic won 2-1 to become the first team from Scotland, England or Wales to win and the first team from outside of Spain, Italy and Portugal to win the competition since it was founded in 1955. All the players from the Celtic team who played in that historic game were born within twelve miles of Celtic’s stadium, Parkhead, and they are now known as, ‘The Lions of Lisbon’.

CelticFC_League_Performance_svgCeltic would reach the finals of The European Cup once more in 1970 but would lose to the great Dutch side, Feyenoord of Rotterdam, 2-1 in the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy.

Celtic continued to dominate Scottish domestic club football with their deadly Glasgow rivals, Rangers. During the 1990’s, Celtic endured a slump and with it financial difficulties and were on the brink of bankruptcy when an expatriate businessman, Fergus McCann, saved the club by wresting control from its owners. He reconstituted Celtic as a public limited company and set about overseeing the redevelopment and modernisation of Celtic’s stadium into an all-seater stadium of 61,000 capacity.

Celtic Today
Celtic’s uniforms reflects their Irish origins; they sport horizontal green and white stripes and their club or crest displays a shamrock.

In 2003, Celtic played in the final of the European Football Association Cup in Seville, Spain. They lost 2-1 to FC Porto of Portugal but their 80,000 travelling fans won widespread praise from the people of Seville for their exemplary behaviour, with not a single fan being arrested. Celtic’s fans were awarded the Fair Play Award from both FIFA (The World Football Association) and UEFA for ‘their loyal and sporting behaviour’.

In November 2012, Celtic celebrated their 125th anniversary since they were founded by Brother Walfrid to raise money for the poor of Glasgow. The club remembers its origins, and still maintains a tradition of charity to this day.

“Celtic has always been much more than a football club,” according to the team’s CEO Peter Lawwell, “and it is important that at all times we play an important role in the wider community.”


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