Celtic boss Rodgers urges Green Brigade to shun politics
Brendan Rodgers has called for Celtic's ultras-style fans group, the Green Brigade, to leave politics out of Celtic Park. The Parkhead club announced they will close the section of their stadium housing the Brigade for the next two matches after 'serious incidents of unsafe behaviour' at their previous two home games.
Celtic were hit with Uefa disciplinary charges over an alleged 'illicit banner' - a paramilitary figure - and 'blocked stairways' during their Champions League victory over Linfield last Wednesday.
Ahead of the Champions League qualifying clash with Rosenborg at Parkhead tonight, Rodgers 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 (have) seen. I want to defend the guys at the same time.
"I have been fortunate enough to be around some of the top 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.
"The guys in the corner add the energy and youthfulness which is absolutely amazing.
"The club have worked tirelessly over the years, the first club in Britain to put in a (safe) standing section and 99.9 per cent of the time they along with the rest of the fans give us this incredible support. But the political element is not acceptable.
"There are forums, platforms for that outside of football. Take that somewhere else.
"It is not for inside Celtic Park. It is not what the values are, the ethos is and it is certainly not what I'm about as a manager.
"I have huge admiration for the support they give but my honest feeling is that I'm not with it, I am very much aligned with the thinking of the board and the people that run the club."
Rodgers also admitted that he could be without his two main strikers tonight.
The Carnlough man claimed the Bhoys 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 tonight.
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," said Rodgers. "He could be (a doubt) so we could be without him and Leigh.
"We do what we always do, we will try to find a solution."
On speculation linking Dembele with French side Marseille, Rodgers replied: "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 (offer) did come in we would assess it."
- Celtic v Rosenborg, Champions League Third Qual Rd, 1st Leg, Celtic Park, Tonight, 7.45pm