Real Madrid-Celtic FC Kick Off Another Big Soccer Weekend in Philly

Real Madrid-Celtic FC Kick Off Another Big Soccer Weekend in Philly
August 11, 2012, 8:14 am
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Growing
up a soccer fan in Delco, it was rare I got to see much of the game on
TV much less in person. Today, after watching the Olympic gold medal
match on TV, we'll rush up to the Linc, where the global force that is
Real Madrid will take on deeply rooted Celtic FC. Tomorrow night, we have the
regularly scheduled Union home match against Chicago Fire at PPL Park.
Not a bad way to spend a Saturday and Sunday if you're into the
beautiful game. Even better, neither match really interferes with the
Phils-Cardinals series at Citizens Bank Park. 
The Madrid-Celtic match was slotted for 1:30 pm to
alleviate congestion in the sports complex, clearing out before all but
the Phillies tailgating early birds show up for tonight's 7:05 start.
Tomorrow, the slots reverse. A summer weekend filled with sports either
in person or on TV… I'll take it. 
Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid return to Philly
for a second straight summer visit since the Union became a franchise.
Last year, we were treated to a fantastic friendly between the Union and
Madrid. Despite taking the loss, the Union showed well, with a
memorable chip goal by Michael Farfan as he formally announced his
ascendency.  
In the 2012 visit, Madrid face Celtic FC, who have
also played the Union locally, down at PPL Park. It may seem a minor
thing, but it speaks volumes to me about the growth of the game in this
region that two of the most recognized clubs in the world will play here
in recent years, along with a number of other teams visiting.
Milan train here, and Celtic recently announced plans for a local
international development academy.
Aside from a report
that Celtic defender Glenn Loovens didn't care for the area (unclear as
to whether he meant the one surrounding PPL Park, where he played
against the Union in 2010, or Philadelphia on the whole), some players
from global powerhouses that have come through Philadelphia in recent
years have left speaking about how it is top class. The Eagles
organization has done a good job of providing comfortable training
facilities and making the Linc a soccer destination despite it being
geared much more toward American football, and the Union's fan support
and new soccer-specific stadium seem to leave a favorable impression
even to opposing teams. 
While the match itself is an off-season friendly,
many stars will be out today. Joseph D'Hippolito takes a nice look at
the firepower Real brings here
.
Each club represents one half of two of soccer's
most passionate rivalries. Celtic and Glasgow Rangers are Scotland's
famous Old Firm
, a rivalry deeply rooted in religion, politics, and
violence.
Real Madrid and FC Barcelona's rivalry, played out each year in El
Clasico, also has profound roots off the pitch. Rev put together a great
primer on it earlier this year
. These
days, the focus is mostly on which Spanish powerhouse will rule the
world, but the rivalry represents not only two large cities, but the
"clash of Castillian nationalism and Catalan pride; and a rivalry of
cultures forged in the Spanish civil war and the reign of General
Franco," as Will Tidey of CNN put it in 2011
If you're interested in the rich history of these
rivalries and many other social and economic components to soccer, I
highly recommend Franklin Foer's book, How Soccer Explains the World.
It's absolutely brilliant and eye-opening. 
But today, we're just expecting a fun display
between two respected clubs. Each should be well represented at the
Linc, so far from their home grounds.
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