Friday 15 November 2019

Politics must be kept out of Celtic Park - Rodgers

Rodgers: “I have always been aware of Celtic’s heritage, charitable work and football work. That’s what it was in 1888 and is to this day.
Rodgers: “I have always been aware of Celtic’s heritage, charitable work and football work. That’s what it was in 1888 and is to this day." Photo credit: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

Ronnie Esplin

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has called for the Green Brigade to leave politics out of Celtic Park.

The Parkhead club announced they will close the section of their stadium housing the ultras-style fans group for the next two matches after "serious incidents of unsafe behaviour'' at their previous two home games - against Hearts one the last day of last season and Linfield.

Celtic were hit with UEFA disciplinary charges over an alleged "illicit banner'' - a paramilitary figure - and "blocked stairways'' during their victory over Linfield last Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of tonight's home Champions League qualifier against Rosenborg, Rodgers (pictured) said: "I have always been aware of Celtic's heritage, charitable work and football work. That's what it was in 1888 and is to this day.

"Celtic is not a political arena for any supporters to come into and display any sort of political element. I was saddened by what I seen.

"I have been fortunate enough to be around some of the top football clubs in Britain and I can categorically say the atmosphere inside Celtic Park, not just by that section, by the 60,000 supporters, is the best you will witness.

"But the political element is not acceptable. There are forums, platforms for that outside of football. Take that somewhere else."

On the pitch he has problems with two of his strikers for the game against Dundalk's conquerors.

The Carnlough man claimed the Parkhead club are "100 per cent" not talking to Marseille about the possible transfer of Moussa Dembele, who scored 32 times last season after moving from Fulham.

However, the former Liverpool boss revealed a hamstring complaint makes the 21-year-old French striker a doubt for the first leg of the third round qualifier against the Norwegian outfit at Celtic Park.

With Leigh Griffiths serving a one-game ban, the Hoops could be left with no recognised centre-forward.

"We are looking at a possible injury he may have," said Rodgers. "He could be (a doubt), so we could be without him and Leigh so we need to find a way.

"We do what we always do, we will try to find a solution within the team to make it work."

On speculation linking Dembele with Marseille, Rodgers said: "I counted the other day, Moussa has been linked with 10 clubs.

"It was Marseille the other day, I saw Arsenal the other week, there was PSG, there was Chelsea, so there is nothing in it from our perspective.

"I felt if he progressed the way we thought he'd progress and if he wanted to move any time it would be after the second year.

"There is no rush from Moussa's perspective.

"He is a player that we really want to keep and if anything did come in we would assess it."

Defender Erik Sviatchenko is carrying a knock, which means he "could well miss this game", and with fellow stopper Dedryck Boyata out longer term, 19-year-old defender Kristoffer Ajer "could potentially" come into contention for the crucial European clash.

"That's why we have a big squad," said Rodgers, who is also a left-back down after Emilio Izaguirre joined Saudia Arabian club Al-Fayha after seven seasons at Parkhead.

The Celtic boss said: "On behalf of us all we wish Emilio all the best, he was a brilliant servant."

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