Hail! Hail! The Celts are here in Kazakhstan
By: Mark Henderson in Kazakhstan on 20 Aug, 2013 14:18
IF you go to Kazakhstan you will see us there - perhaps that should be a line added to the popular Celtic song, ´Over and Over.
For, despite the immense difficulties in obtaining a visa on time, the vast logistical problems and the daunting journey, a group of dedicated Hoops supporters have made it to Kazakh capital to watch the Bhoys take on Shakhter Karagandy.
When Neil Lennon´s men run out the tunnel tonight in the Astana Arena they will be greeted by the sight of green and white shirts in the stands.
And that´s certain to give them a lift as they aim to overcome Shakhter and reach the UEFA Champions League group stages for the second year running.
Before the game, the official Celtic website caught up with some of the Hoops faithful who had journeyed over for the game.
Glenrothes Bhoy Mark Cameron flew from Edinburgh via Gatwick and Kiev before arriving in Astana this morning. His gruelling journey lasted 27 hours but Mark, who is a member of the Lochgelly CSC, insisted that he and the rest of the fans were in high spirits.
"It´s been worthwhile," he said. "I arrived at 7am this morning and had breakfast, bed and then showered, so we did everything in reverse order. We got our match tickets and all the guys are in good spirits with a couple of hours´ sleep.
"We are good to go and looking forward to the game tonight. It´s an incredible city, the weather is great and we are all really looking forward to it. Hopefully we can get a real good result tonight to take back to Celtic Park."
Father and son, Allan Ingram Snr and Allan Ingram Jnr, both hail from the Highlands – Fort William and Inverness respectively. They faced a logistical nightmare in getting a visa but were desperate not to pass up the chance of watching the Hoops in such an unusual location.
Allan Jnr said: "The chances of going here again are pretty slim. No Scottish club or the national team has ever been here. It´s a new experience and you want to go somewhere different, and you are following your team as well. It´s got to be done.
"We are in the unknown a wee bit but I would be happy with a score draw but I feel we are capable of getting a goal with guys like Samaras in the team."
Allan Snr added: "We go to every game, home and away in Scotland and in Europe. We just wanted to come as we are always there. It´s different, the weather is fabulous and we are looking forward to it.
"I´m always very apprehensive, I would be quite happy with a draw, especially a scoring draw. If we are tight at the back, we could maybe sneak a win. The plastic pitch won´t worry me too much and they play on grass normally anyway."
Supporters have not only travelled from Scotland, Ireland or England but also the likes of Poland, Siberia and Kazakhstan itself.
Zhanibek Karshalov, who is from the former Kazakh capital of Almaty, said: "When I first saw a Celtic game I was impressed by the passion and culture of the fans. And I like the colours – green and white.
"I know one other supporter from Kazakhstan but he is in the USA studying just now so he is going to miss the game and is disappointed about that. This will be my first Celtic game so I am very happy!"
Siberian Celt, Andrey Vasilenko spent two days on the bus to Astana in order to see his heroes in action He said: "Some years ago I read the history of Celtic and Rangers and then I started to support Celtic because of their charitable history which Brother Walfrid started.
"This will not be my first Celtic game as I went to see them play Spartak Moscow in the Champions League last year."