Celtic FC is to play its first major US exhibition match in years tonight at the Boston Red Sox home turf at Fenway Park.
The Scottish side is to play in a highly aniticipated exhibition match against Portuguese side Sporting Clube de Portugal. The unusual spectacle of a soccer match being played in the Red Sox ground is part of an attempt by the stadium’s management to diversify the types of sports being played at the pitch as the stadium approaches its centenary.
Celtic’s last major North American tour match at the Boston stadium was all the way back in 1931 when the Scottish side lost by a scoreline of 4-3 to the New York Yankees.
For the stadium, too, this will be an almost-first. The last soccer game played at the illustrious stadium was back in 1968 when the Boston Beacons played a home match there.
Celtic has a large fan base in New England where many Irish-Americans identify with the team’s Catholic-Irish origins.
The team is one of only a handful of sporting clubs in the whole world that’s identified with a particular religion.
Explaining the global support that the side amasses, Dick Johnson, curator at the New England Sports Museum, told the Boston Globe that “They [Celtic FC] have an ironclad identity based on sociological, religious, economic factors — all these layers.
A surprising revelation is that tonight’s field will be slightly shorter than regulation length. The field’s width is a regulation 75 yards, but the length is 98 yards, 12 short of international standards. This doesn’t seem to have fazed the teams, though: It's a game," said Sporting football director Francisco Costa. "And if you have ambition, if you like the game, it doesn't matter if [the field] is big or small. You just want to play."
"For Sporting," Costa continued, "being invited to play in this fantastic stadium is a great honor."
Kickoff tonight is at 8PM.