By: Martin Dalziel in Villarreal on 02 Sep, 2014 22:38
TONIGHT’S game between Celtic and Villarreal will celebrate a decade-long marriage between football and charity that could prove life-changing for child cancer sufferers.
When 8,000 Hoops fans travelled to the coastal Spanish town in April 2004 to see their team take on the local side in the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup, little did they know that their good will and friendliness would leave a legacy that has lasted for 10 years and is still going strong.
Former Villarreal player, Ernesto Boixader, had not long lost his son to cancer when the Bhoys fans arrived in town but was so taken back by the good nature of the Celtic travelling support that he attended the game and started work on the now famous Submari Celtic Supporters’ Club.
A decade later and that same club is now on the brink of raising 150,000 Euros which will fund a research project that could improve the lives of young cancer sufferers throughout Spain, all on the back of that one night of football.
Members of the club have expressed their joy at welcoming Celtic back to their town and have said that their dreams have been achieved.
Club member, Vicent Andreu told the official Celtic website: “2014 is our 10th anniversary as a supporters' club so we wanted to celebrate in a different way.
“We wanted to do something really brave and important to raise funds for something that could last for more than a few days in the press so we decided to go for this.
“We never thought it would come to this. When we first played in the UEFA Cup, Villarreal was a smaller team in a small town.
“When we first qualified for playing in Europe it was a dream. I thought it would take a long time to see that again but we have managed to play in the first division for a long time.
“We have always had a very good team over the last 10 years but back in 2004 it was a dream to think that at some point we could manage to bring such an important team as Celtic to us for raising funds for our charity purposes.
“When we first met for the UEFA Cup in April 2004, Ernesto, our President, was going through a very complicated experience because he had just lost his son to cancer.
“The game was only a few weeks after that and he was feeling really bad. He was a former Villarreal player and when he saw the city invaded by 8,000 Celtic supporters he was amazed.
“There were Celtic people everywhere. Everyone was in good spirits and a good mood. They were happy and he told me when he was going out from work that night he went across to the area of the stadium and saw all of that and finally went to the match – he hadn't planned to – and from that very moment he decided to create something that had that good feeling around football.
“He wanted something that reflected that friendship among people supporting football teams and wanted to also raise funds to help children suffering from cancer. So that’s what we have been doing for these last 10 years.”
Those 10 years have been a labour of love for everyone involved in the club, with members taking on different roles and responsibilities when needed to keep the operation going.
Their work is now almost complete and the money raised from the special game will be put towards a research project that will aim to help youngsters suffering from cancer.
Vicent added: “When we started thinking about this project the first thing we thought of was Celtic.
“For us it is a success. We feel really satisfied because we know we have sold around 10,000 tickets. For Glasgow that’s maybe not a huge amount but for a town like Villarreal it is a good result.
“I think finally, because Celtic has become such a success, because it’s the origin of all our history and because it is a great team in Europe, it wouldn’t be the same bringing another team.
"Maybe it would be easier but in Villarreal Celtic attract more people to the stadium than any other foreign team in the world.
“Initially we thought if we can’t do it in a year we will then keep going on to get the funds. I think that after the match and some other contributions and the many other activities we have organised this year, we feel we will have done it.”
The Villarreal game will be shown live to all subscribers on Celtic TV. Click HERE for details.
The charitable foundations of Celtic will come to the fore again this Sunday and you can be there for what will be a special day at Paradise.
Paul McStay's Maestros take on Rio Ferdinand's All-Stars in the MAESTRIO match, sponsored by Flip and Magners, at Celtic Park on Sunday, September 7 and tickets are on sale now – maximum of 10 per person - priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
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