Celtic’s Neil Lennon shows sheepish respect for Shakhter Karagandy
Hours before the Scottish champions arrived at the Astana Arena for a training session on the plastic pitch, the Kazakhstan side had again killed a sheep in order to bring them good luck
Celtic’s manager Neil Lennon expects a difficult tie in Astana.
Celtic’s culture clash with Shakhter Karagandy was highlighted further when Neil Lennon was asked about sacrificing sheep ahead of today’s tie in Astana.
Hours before the Scottish champions arrived at the Astana Arena for a training session on the plastic pitch, the Kazakhstan side had again killed a sheep in order to bring them good luck.
The sacrifice took place at a tunnel in the corner of the stadium before the Shakhter players were put through their paces by coach Viktor Kumykov, who was later coy about the “tradition.”
The Celtic manager was asked about the home side’s unusual pre-match ritual at his press conference and said: “You have to respect that. It is a different culture. Players have their own superstitions. We have a very diverse group of players from different parts of the world, different religions and you respect that.”
The home side will need all the luck they can get if Kumykov is to be believed.
At his press conference at the stadium earlier, the Russian described Celtic as the masters in comparison to his students but Lennon, who revealed there is “nothing at all” to report in terms of new signings, was not convinced.
“Obviously we have more experience than Shakhter but they are at home and they have an excellent home record,” he said. “They have already knocked out Bate Borisov who beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season so this is going to be a difficult tie.”
Lennon had a joke when he was told that Kumykov had promised to give up smoking after 35 years if his side beat Celtic. Asked if there was anything he would consider giving up for a victory, the former Celtic skipper laughed as he replied: “Well, I don’t smoke.
“I would like to say I would give up alcohol (if Celtic won) but that would be a very difficult thing for me to do as well. Especially in Glasgow.”
The Northern Irishman was less happy, however, when one local journalist claimed he has been quoted as saying he thought it would be an easy game in Astana.
“I don’t think that is correct,” he said. “I never said that. It will be a very difficult tie, particularly the game away from home. The tie is over two games and hopefully we will take some sort of result back to Glasgow.
“Our home form in the Champions League is very good over the years but we know we are in for a very difficult game.”