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Celtic back in Europa League

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic were yesterday reinstated in the Europa League after their play-off conquerors Sion were punished for fielding ineligible players against the Hoops.

Providing Sion do not succeed with an appeal, Neil Lennon's men will take the Swiss side's place in Group I, which includes Atletico Madrid, Udinese and Rennes.

Celtic said in a statement that they were “pleased by this decision”, and thanked the Scottish Football Association for their support.

According to Celtic legend Frank McGarvey, the verdict from UEFA's control and disciplinary body makes amends for a decision which went against the club 27 years ago.

McGarvey claims Celtic were victims of “disgraceful” treatment in 1984 when they were embroiled in an infamous European Cup Winners Cup clash with Rapid Vienna.

The second leg of that match at Celtic Park, which the Hoops won 3-0 following a 3-1 first-leg defeat, was ruled null and void after the Austrians claimed Rudi Weinhofer had been hit by a bottle thrown from the terracing.

A third game was ordered to be played at a neutral venue and Rapid won 1-0 at Old Trafford.

“I am delighted with the news that Celtic are back in the tournament,” said McGarvey. At last Celtic have had a bit of justice from UEFA, although it has taken 27 years.

“Sion have broken the rules of football and they have got to be punished.

“What UEFA did to us in 1984 was disgraceful. Rapid Vienna were cheats and got away with it.

“Their player did not get touched and although we beat them fair and square, we had to play another game and got knocked out.

“I wish I had had the strength of character to have said I didn't want to play against Rapid Vienna at Old Trafford, but in any case the club should have withdrawn.

“But we didn't and got beat and they reached the final to be beaten by Everton. “Maybe that is an omen for Celtic, who knows?

“Denmark are another team who were brought back into a tournament in 1992 and ended up winning the European Championships.

“But regardless, it is great for Celtic and a boost for Scottish football and I am extremely happy.

“It is brilliant for the players who need European experience and for the manager as well.

“They have nothing to lose now. It is a tough group but you never know what can happen now.”

Sion signed five players with the club still under a transfer ban imposed by FIFA after breaching rules over the signing of Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary three years ago, although a Swiss court had ruled in their favour.

One of those players, Pascal Feindouno, scored two goals in the 3-1 second leg win over Celtic in Switzerland.

Sion have two rights of appeal, the second with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and the Swiss club have threatened to take the case to a civil court.

They have already done that during the long-running dispute, winning a ruling that prompted the Swiss football authorities to allow them to field the five players in domestic action.

Belfast Telegraph


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