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CELT HEROES OF GROUND ZERO; Club to play Italians in New York for terror victims.

Byline: SIMON HOUSTON EXCLUSIVE

CELTIC are behind an audacious plan to raise money for September 11 victims by staging a glamour match in New York.

Martin O'Neill's Scottish champions want to take on top class opposition - almost certainly Italians AC Milan - in the world-famous Giants Stadium.

And Celtic hope the club's enormous appeal in North America will help them rake in as much cash as possible for relatives of those killed in the terror attacks in the United States last year. Last night officials were still working on the deal, which would see thousands of supporters from the city's huge Irish and Italian-American communities flocking to the ...

last year. Last night officials were still working on the deal, which would see thousands of supporters from the city's huge Irish and Italian-American communities flocking to the showdown.

A Parkhead spokesman said last night: "There are a number of hurdles to be overcome but we would hopefully be in a better position to confirm in the next week to 10 days."

The club is aware of the huge costs involved in staging such an event - which could be held in mid-May - but is committed to pouring every dollar raised into the disaster funds.

A source close the club said: "Such a match has the potential to be a huge fund-raiser for the families of those who lost their lives during the attacks on America.

"Celtic and AC Milan are huge draws over there and Celtic have a strong following among ex-pat Scots and Irish."

It's believed that the 80,000-capacity Giants Stadium is the preferred venue for the game.

Last night final arrangements were being made for the what could be one of the most high-profile games involving a Scottish club side in decades.

There's a growing hunger for soccer in New York and neighbouring New Jersey, and organisers believe they'll have no problem selling tickets for the game.

When Italy and Ireland met in Giants Stadium in the 1994 World Cup the arena could have been sold out twice over.

Giants Stadium, in the Meadowlands complex across the Hudson River from Manhattan, is in the heart of New Jersey's Irish and Italian areas. The nearby town of Kearney is also home to both a Celtic supporters club and the popular Scots-American Club.

The North American Federation of Celtic Supporters Clubs are desperate to see the side play on American soil in such a high-profile event.

It would also give Celtic the chance to take their silverware across the Atlantic to show off to American fans.

By then they could have retained both the SPL title and the Scottish Cup as the tie would come two weeks after the Hampden final against Rangers.

The most likely date for the friendly is the week of Saturday May 18, the weekend after the final round of SPL games on May 12 - Milan's other preferred date.

However, stars such as Swedish duo such as Henrik Larsson and Johan Mjallby would be unlikely to make the New York trip as they would have joined their World Cup-bound team-mates by then.

When the Record took the possibility of the New York match to Giants Stadium general manager Bill Squires, he said: "Your information is very good.

"Milan are in town around then and we are waiting for confirmation of the matches that they will play."

A Milan spokesman then said: "We will know within two weeks who the opposition will be when we are in America but we cannot say anything more at this stage."

Last night the source close to Celtic said the Parkhead outfit are the obvious choice to face Milan. He said: "When you think of New York you think of the Italians and the Irish.

"It makes a lot of sense for these two clubs to face each other,because there would be no problem filling the stadium.

"It would be a mouth-watering match. I imagine there would be a lot of bidders for the TV rights to this one."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 29, 2002
Words:667
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