LEGIA Warsaw co-owner Dariusz Mioduski’s impassioned open letter to Celtic asking for a meeting in Glasgow to discuss whether the Poles should in the “spirit of the game and rules of fair play” be reinstated to the Champions League was last night given short shrift by the Parkhead club.
A blunt statement on Celtic’s website read: “We are disappointed by Legia Warsaw’s comments. This is entirely a matter for Uefa and its processes.
Accordingly, we will reserve further comment for the appropriate time.”
Celtic were on Friday handed a lifeline in Europe’s premier club competition after Legia were punished for fielding an ineligible player in their 6-1 aggregate win over the Scottish champions in the third qualifying round.
Legia manager Henning Berg had vowed that his club would appeal, and Mioduski followed that up yesterday when he issued an open letter stating his side’s case and asking Celtic to “settle this matter honourably”.
After reflecting on Celtic’s “beautiful” history, Mioduski said: “I therefore call on you to refer your best traditions of honour and honesty, that your famous club has been known for during the last 126 years. Do not destroy the beautiful legacy, that you inherited from the past generations of ‘The Bhoys’. I call on you to act according to the spirit of the game and rules of fair play – to issue a joint statement to the Uefa disciplinary bodies. Let’s meet in Warsaw or Glasgow and settle this matter honourably.”
Bartosz Bereszynski, who came on as an 86th-minute substitute as Legia won the second leg 2-0 at Murrayfield on Wednesday night, was handed a three-match ban after a red card in the Europa League last season. Legia believed he was free to play after missing the two games against St Patrick’s Athletic as well as the first leg against Celtic in Warsaw.
But the player was not included on Legia’s squad list submitted to Uefa for the St Patrick’s games and thus his suspension was not deemed to have been served. Celtic were awarded a 3-0 win, meaning they went through on away goals after a 4-4 draw and were drawn against Slovenian side Maribor in the Champions League play-off, with the Warsaw club dropping into the Europa League.
Mioduski described Uefa’s punishment as “deeply unfair and contradictory to the fair play rules”, and referenced Celtic’s “rich heritage” and 1967 European Cup triumph in attempting to persuade them to consider the matter.
He said: “Imagine Jock Stein and Billy McNeill deprived of the chance to achieve the biggest triumph in their career by an application form, filled improperly by a club employee acting in good faith. Willie Maley, the legendary manager of Celtic FC, once said that in your stadium ‘a man is judged by his football alone’. Only you can decide whether this noble credo will be replaced by an opportunistic use of legal loopholes.”
The letter in full:
Celtic FC is one of the European football legends, a club with a remarkable heritage, that has contributed to the history of the world’s most beautiful game. This legend is based not only on the great on-the-field successes, but also on the determination and attachment to values such as honesty and honour. The successive generations of wonderful, devoted fans of “The Bhoys” glorify their club all around the world. Thanks to that, for many reason Celtic FC has been our role model.
Legia Warsaw is also a club with strong character and brave heart. Our history is not as long or successful, however, we can proudly look both back and ahead. Almost 100 years of our difficult history, inseparably bound with the tough fate of Poland and the city of Warsaw, prove one certain thing - we never give up and value honour the most.
Double victory over Celtic FC in the third qualification round of the UEFA Champions League, firmly but fairly gained on the pitch, was a big success for us. It led us closer to the big dream of the entire generation of our fans: to reach the group stage of the UCL for the first time in 19 years. We found it deeply unfair and contradictory to the fair play rules to see our dreams shattered by the last 4 minutes of the already decided second leg match, when Bartoz Bereszynski was brought on the pitch. Our player had served the full sentence and intentionally missed first three matches in the UCL qualifications this season.
Celtic FC went down in history with one of the most beautiful stories of European football in 1967, after beating mighty Inter Milan managed by Helenio Herrera in the European cup final. Could you imagine Jock Stein and Billy McNeil deprived of the chance to achieve the biggest triumph in their career by an application form, filled in improperly by the Club employee acting in good faith?
Would any true legend of Celtic FC accept the qualification won despite the double defeat suffered on the pitch? I am strongly convinced, that their legendary Celtic pride would not allow them to do that. How could they then look in the eyes of their humiliated fans?
I therefore call on you to refer to your best traditions of honour and honesty, that your famous club has been known for during the last 126 years. Do not destroy the beautiful clubhouse heritage that you have left in the care of previous generations, ‘The Bhoys’. I challenge you, would you in the spirit of the game and fair play, and on the basis of Art. 34 paragraph 5 of the Uefa Disciplinary Regulations of Legia Warsaw took a common position on the Uefa disciplinary bodies. Meet in Warsaw or in Glasgow and let’s settle this matter honourably.
Willie Maley, the legendary manager of Celtic FC, once said, that in your stadium “a man is judged by his football alone”. Only you can decide whether this noble credo will be replaced by an opportunistic use of legal loopholes.
Many Celtic FC fans bear the “Keep the Faith!” motto on their flags, jerseys, tattoos and in their hearts. I will be thinking about it waiting for your answer.
Darlusz Mloduski, Chairman of Legia Warsaw