WFC 2012

WFC: Scotland's Celtic lay down roots in Philly via academy

WFC: Georgios Samaras, Celtic (July 12, 2011)

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PHILADELPHIA – Legendary Scottish club Celtic FC have been to Philadelphia before.

But this time around, in addition to Saturday's 2012 Herbalife World Football Challenge match against Real Madrid at Lincoln Financial Field (1:30 pm ET, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes), the Hoops have established a permanent imprint that will remain in the city long after they go back home.

On Friday, in a press conference held from their hotel base on the Philly waterfront, Celtic announced that their International Development Academy will expand to Philadelphia in a partnership with the Philadelphia Sports Zone, a planned state-of-the-art complex to be built in Northeast Philadelphia.

According to Greg Robertson, a Under-13 academy coach in the Celtic system, youth players from the Philadelphia area would train “under the auspices of Celtic football” – which would entail camps, trips and other educational opportunities.

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“As a club, we’ll help support the coaching program and the coaching curriculum,” Robertson said. “We’ll regularly send academy coaches from Scotland out to the facility. We’ll provide opportunity for youth players in Philadelphia to come over to Glasgow to train with our academy.

“We’d like to think the expertise we have in youth coaching will help provide youth soccer players here in Philadelphia an extended opportunity to learn the game.”

Celtic manager Neil Lennon, a former captain of the club, said it’s important for the team to “push the brand as far and wide as we possibly can.” But he also noted that they wanted to be “clever” in how they expand.

The United States – and Philadelphia, in particular – was a natural choice because of the strong Celtic fan base already exists through the Irish-American and Scottish-American communities. Plus, the ever-growing talent pool Lennon and others have seen in the US made it attractive, as well.

“We’re very proud of our academy and we want to expand on it,” the Celtic manager said. “We’ve already had players come through the academy to our first team … and it’s not just confined to Scotland and England. Hopefully we’ll have some American players here in five, 10 years time. That would be fantastic.”

E-mail Dave Zeitlin at djzeitlin@gmail.com.