They’re one of the roughest, toughest, hardest-hitting soccer teams on the face of the earth. Founded in Glasgow in 1887, and formed from the local Irish immigration population and native Glaswegians, they’re 45-time winners of the Scottish League Championship. They have a rabid following throughout the world, including more than a few here in Philadelphia
Recognized the world over by their distinctive four-leaf clover logo, they’re the Celtic Football Club (CFC). And several of their coaches are coming to Upper Moreland this summer for what is likely to be one of the most popular youth soccer camps ever.
Actually, it’s not the coaches of the adult team who are coming. That might be a little intense for 8- to 14-year-olds. Celtic (they pronounce it “sell-tick,” not “kell-tick”) has an academy for young players, some starting at 5. It’s those coaches who will hold sway over the Upper Moreland Soccer Club camp the week of August 4-8.
Celtic’s interest in a local team is a rare honor. The club has partnered with only five other U.S. youth soccer clubs. “We would be their sixth,” says coach Seamus Cummins. “They don’t choose just anybody. They look for the right fit. We were a good match for them, and vice versa. We’re excited to be number six.”
It didn’t hurt that there are two extremely devoted CFC fan clubs in Philadelphia—the Second Street Plough Bhoys (“The Bhoys” is an old team nickname) and the Philadelphia Celtic Supporters. Celtic coaches realized that fact all too well last year, when The National Soccer Coaches Association of America hosted its meeting in Philadelphia. Willie McNab, CFC’s International Celtic Soccer Academy manager, spoke at the annual meeting, Cummins says.
“We have very involved CFC supporters in Philadelphia,” Seamus says, “and Willie took notice. Celtic had been looking to partner with a club in the Philadelphia area. I passed that information on to Chris (Heron), who’s on our board of directors.”
The Upper Moreland club’s board was enthusiastic. Heron contacted McNab, and the deal was done.
“They’re going to do a lot of quick drills to keep them engaged,” he says. “There’ll be a lot of ball touch.”
Most soccer kids know exactly who Celtic Football Club is, and Heron expects keeping the kids engaged will be no problem at all. “Kids are always wearing Celtic soccer jerseys.”
CFC is such a draw, Cummins adds, that he’s already heard from one soccer parent in Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, who’s seriously considering driving his kid up to Montgomery County for the week. “That’s a 10- to 12-hour drive,” he laughs.
That’s probably a sign of the dad’s interest as much as the kid’s, Cummins says. In fact, Cummins is already hearing from adults who are just desperate to come and watch.
Cummins and Heron understand the attraction. They’re both devout Celtic fans, and Cummins for a personal reason.
“There’s a bond that the Irish have with this team,” Cummins says. “The reason I support Celtic is that my grandparents came from Ireland. They supported Celtic, and I support Celtic.”
And it’s a pretty safe bet that by the end of that week in August, Irish or not, most of the kids who attend the camp will support Celtic—if they don’t already.
Cummins and Heron aren’t sure how many of those kids are likely to register, but Upper Moreland can accommodate a large number, with two separate playing facilities available throughout the week. The number of coaches who will fly over from Glasgow will depend on the number of kids who register. Celtic’s coaches prefer a 1 to 20 ratio.
Those coaches are expecting a lot of enthusiasm. Soccer is one of the fastest growing youth sports in America.
And now, the world’s eyes are riveted on the World Cup in Brazil. Cummins says. “It’s the perfect time to promote soccer.”
The CFC camp is open to boys and girls in the 8 to 14 age range. Registration for UMSC families will be only $150. For non-UMSC members, registration will be $175. The camp will be held at either (or both) Pileggi Park or at the Middle School complex. Details are being finalized.