Monday, 12 May 2014

Big Green Tractor

Big Green Tractor
Sunday was a fairly emotional day for those of us who love the green. For me it began at 10am at Celtic Park as I met up with those other hardy souls you saw shaking Celtic Charity Foundation buckets at you as you entered the stadium. I finally got to meet a few of my Twitter friends in the flesh and the passion they have for Celtic and its traditions exudes from every pore. Collecting at the Lisbon Lions Stand was a lovely experience too. I heard accents from every corner of these islands and a few from further afield. The generosity of the Celtic support never fails to amaze me and I can report that Walfrid’s spirit is alive and well.

The game itself was one of those matches were my eyes drifted from my unusual seat in section 111 to the massed banks of Celtic fans in the great north stand. It was a thing of beauty to see those thousands of green flags fluttering in the breeze of victory. For those of us who suffered through the 1990s it is a sight we will never tire of. Then the whole stadium reverberated to ‘Let’s all do the Huddle’ and I once more felt that bond, that comradeship I have felt so often down the years with Celtic supporters from all over.  As the fireworks boomed and the ticker-tape and confetti exploded into the sky, my thoughts turned to other occasions in the old stadium with family and friends long gone. Down through all those years we saw every victory as a joy, every championship as a vindication that our club and our community was here to stay and proud of who we are.  On days such as Sunday it was simply great being a Celt but then it usually is.

As I exited the stadium through the throngs of happy adults and laughing children, I came to the statue of our founder by the front entrance of Celtic Park. Fans were laying tributes around Walfrid’s statue to honour the memory of a brave wee lad who had finally lost his valiant fight. One of the most beautiful moments I have ever had as a Celtic supporter occurred last summer when Celtic played Cliftonville in the Champions League Qualifying round. As I took my seat in the Jock Stein stand a figure running across the pitch caught my eye. This pint sized pitch invader raced straight for Celtic mascot Hoopy who swept him up in a warm embrace. It was of course the wonderful Oscar Knox. Just about everyone at Celtic Park was aware of this courageous wee lad’s struggle with Neuroblastoma, a cruel and aggressive form of cancer, and more than a few had a tear in their eye as they watched him cavort with Hoopy.

The distance between Glengormley in County Antrim and Celtic Park is around 120 miles as the crow flies but on Sunday last those miles shrunk away as the two places united to remember a brave and inspirational wee boy. Like most of you reading this, I never met Oscar Knox but I felt I did as his very human struggle was shared via the wonders of social media. His mother spoke so beautifully about the beautiful child who brought so much joy into the lives of all Oscar touched with his magic. She said….

"We talked to him a few weeks ago about going on a journey to Neverland. We explained in Neverland there are no sore knees, no sore heads and no sore tummies. Oscar had always told us that when he grew up he wanted to drive a big green tractor instead of a car and he was so excited to hear that Old McDonald lives in Neverland and allowed people to drive his big green tractor if they were five and a half.’

So my Sunday was one of mixed emotion. From the generosity of the Celtic support in filling the buckets of the charity Foundation we then had the team and support bonding in their moment of triumph. In the midst of the celebration there were tears too as we remembered one of our own who had inspired us so much with his courage. Being part of the Celtic family is like that, they make you laugh, they make you cry but they make you so proud too.

God bless you Oscar, I hope you’re riding that big green tractor now and smiling down on us all.

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