There’s nothing quite like a Europa League match at 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday between two Americans, I guess. Though not on the normal Thursday night timing, Celtic’s match with Ferencváros brought the same eccentricity you expect from a Europa League game.
Celtic took down Ferencváros 2-0 in a showdown of the two bottom teams in Group G in Glasgow on Tuesday. The unusual timing didn’t dampen the atmosphere at Celtic Park, which was rocking from the start, even if those of us in the American West were still arriving at work. Cameron Carter-Vickers’ Scottish club earned its first win of the group stage while Henry Wingo’s Hungarian side remained winless in the competition.
Why was Celtic hosting a Europa League match at 3:30 p.m. local time on a Tuesday? It’s because Glasgow is hosting the COP26 climate conference in a couple weeks during Match Day 4, which meant switching Celtic’s home date with Ferencváros to Match Day 3. Because Rangers also has a home game scheduled against Brøndby on Thursday and UEFA does not allow two continental matches to be played in the same city on the same day, the Celtic match was moved to Tuesday. The early kickoff was to avoid conflict with the Champions League matches later in the day.
Weird? Yes. But not unusual. Though the fans didn’t appreciate the early kickoff.
There was an unusual moment before the game, as the teams showed differing stances on how to combat (or embrace?) racism. Celtic players all took the knee as has been common throughout Europe since a global reckoning on race following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer. Ferencváros players chose not to kneel and instead stood together, arms all locked — except for one player, the American Wingo.
Wingo, a native of Seattle, Washington, apparently wanted to do more than just stand with his teammates and raised his right fist.
Celtic players take the knee ahead of their game against Ferencvaros. pic.twitter.com/NV7PBeQXSC— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 19, 2021
A bit of background for context: Glasgow was witness to a vile instance of racism in the Europa League recently. Rangers player Glen Kamara, who is Black, was racially abused by Slavia Prague’s Ondrej Kudela, who was banned for 10 matches. Nonetheless, Slavia fans backed Kudela and doubled down on their racism.
Ferencváros, meanwhile, is a club plagued by racist abuse from fans, with UEFA having punished the club and its fans half a dozen times in the last two decades, including for monkey chants and racist banners.
For reasons I do not understand, the act of kneeling is viewed in some parts of Europe and the U.S. as giving in to anti-racists, as if trying to fight racism is somehow worse than actual racism. Not joining Celtic in taking a knee could be seen as refusing to show solidarity in the fight against racism, similar to Carli Lloyd’s refusal at the Olympics or in the NWSL.
Does that mean all Ferencváros players are racist? No, but it does point to the precarious position the players are in, supported by fans with an ugly history of racism in a country ruled by a bigot. It seemed evident Wingo wanted to do more than just stand with his teammates.
As for the match itself, it didn’t go so well for Wingo and his teammates.
Jota supplied a sublime pass to Kyogo Furuhashi for the opener in the 57th minute.
The ball from Jota. The finish from Kyogo Furuhashi. pic.twitter.com/Pe4FwXlrSx— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 19, 2021
Wingo conceded a penalty later in the second half but was bailed out by his keeper, Denes Dibusz, who denied Callum McGregor from the spot. But David Turnbull bumbled home a second in the 81st minute to secure the win.
Carter-Vickers and Wingo both went the full 90. While neither has been involved in the USMNT setup recently, U.S. fans will be happy to see the Americans getting playing time in the Europa League, even if it’s on a Tuesday afternoon.