Is It Time for Celtic FC to Get Streetwise in Europe? The Debate on Influencing Referees

The recent UEFA Champions League match between Celtic and Feyenoord was a rollercoaster of emotions, ending in a 2-0 defeat for the Hoops. The match saw Celtic reduced to nine men after red cards were shown to Gustaf Lagerbielke and Odin Thiago Holm. Despite the numerical disadvantage, Celtic fought valiantly but ultimately couldn't overcome Feyenoord's two goals. The match was marred by controversial decisions, including a penalty awarded against Lagerbielke, which Joe Hart brilliantly saved.

This brings us to a broader issue: should Celtic become more "streetwise" in their approach to the game, particularly when playing in European competitions? Two key incidents during the match against Feyenoord highlight this question. First, Daizen Maeda was brought down as he took a shot in the box. The second incident involved Maeda again, who was pushed just outside the box as he prepared to take a clear shot at goal. In both cases, the fouls were clear, yet Celtic players didn't make a big deal out of them resulting in no VAR interventions.

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Contrast this with the behaviour of some European teams, who often make the most of such incidents to influence referees. For instance, a Feyenoord player went down holding his face when Lagerbielke gently blocked him with his arm. The question arises: had Maeda stayed down clutching his ankle, would it have given the officials more time to consider the incident?

Celtic's sportsmanship is commendable, but there's a fine line between sportsmanship and naivety, especially in high-stakes European matches where every decision can be crucial. The Hoops have often been on the receiving end of harsh decisions, and perhaps it's time to adapt a more streetwise approach. This doesn't mean diving or feigning injuries, but rather making sure that fouls don't go unnoticed or unpunished.

The club's focus now shifts to their next match against Lazio, and it will be interesting to see if their approach changes. After all, European football is not just about skill and tactics; it's also a mental game where influencing referees can sometimes be as important as scoring goals. However, as the legendary Celtic manager Jock Stein once said, "If you're good enough, the referee shouldn't matter." The question for Celtic then becomes: can they be good enough to let their football do the talking, or is it time to adapt to the more cunning aspects of the modern game? Only time will tell.

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