In a regular column, Tony McHugh will look at some of Celtic’s more unknown European opponents throughout its history and what the future held for the teams that once visited Celtic Park. In this issue he examines a fateful meeting in 1984 that would bring the club of Rapid Vienna into Celtic folklore.
It was on a cold November night back in 1984 that the name Rapid Vienna would be etched in the history of Celtic Football Club. The Hoops were 3-1 down after the first leg of the Cup Winners Cup, but through a miraculous effort had overturned that deficit, leading 3-0 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate. Then it kicked off.
It the 72nd minute Rapid’s Reinhard Kienast decided to change sport and punched Tommy Burns like a price fighter in the penalty box. The referee gave a penalty to Celtic and sent off Kienast. During the protest from the Rapid players a bottle of whiskey was flung on the park, with a Rapid player hitting the floor immediately. The game resumed after a long twelve minutes of chaos. Peter Grant missed the penalty, but Celtic held on to win 3-0 Celtic.
After the game Rapid -supported by the Austrian FA – sent a complaint to UEFA claiming their player had been hit by the bottle. After reviewing video evidence, UEFA originally threw out their plea but fined both teams. The Austrians appealed the decision, now claiming the player had been hit by unseen objects like coins. Celtic and the SFA said this had not been the case but this time UEFA agreed with Rapid, fined both teams but also deciding that there was to be a replay.
Celtic and their fans were livid, with manager David Hay considering withdrawing from the tournament. The game was to be played at least 100 miles from Glasgow. After considering Aberdeen, the club decided to go with Old Trafford in Manchester instead. The game was a disaster for Celtic, losing 1-0 and also being marred by crowd trouble with pitch invasions and fighting outside the ground. Celtic would be forced to play their next European game behind closed doors and there was real anger and bitterness towards Rapid.
Even now, 33 years later, that feeling still lingers among many Celtic fans; not only a sense that they were denied progression in the tournament by cheated, but that a very real chance of claiming another European trophy was taken away from them.
When the draw was made, Celtic were quietly confident. The year before Rapid had been knocked out of the European Cup by Dundee United and had never really done anything of significance in any of the European tournaments. Founded in 1897 (their name changed in 1899 to Rapid) for the working class people of Vienna , Rapid became the most successful club in Austria and had won 27 league titles by the time they faced Celtic in 1984. They originally played in red and blue until a change to green and white in 1904, resulting in their nickname “Die Grun – Weißen ( the green and whites). The club won the first ever Austrian title 1911/12 and even won the German cup when Austria was annexed during Nazi rule in the 1930’s. The mid 1950’s and 60’s were the pinnacle for Rapid, winning seven titles between 1954 and 1968.
By the late 1970’s and early 80’s it was Vienna’s other club, Austria Vienna, who were the dominant team with four titles from 1978 and 81. By the time Celtic were drawn with Rapid the Viennese club had made a recovery from the dark days of the ‘70s by winning the league in ’82, ending a 14 year drought, then doing the domestic double in the following season. Another cup triumph in 83/84 put them on the course to meet Celtic a few months later.
After the Celtic game Rapid were drawn against Dynamo Dresden of East Germany in the quarter finals, where a 3-0 away loss was overturned by a 5-0 win in Vienna. A tie with another Eastern Block giant in Dynamo Moscow followed, a 4-2 aggregate win sending Rapid through to the Cup Winners Cup Final against Everton in Rotterdam. On a wet and horrible evening Everton easily beat the Austrian’s 3-1. Celtic fans could only watch on and wonder whether it would have been their team playing the Liverpudlians had it not been for Rapid’s questionable actions in Glasgow.
Rapid would come close to winning the Cup Winners’ Cup again in 1995/96 when they reached the final after knocking out teams such as Sporting Lisbon, Dynamo Moscow (again) and Feyenoord. In the final in Brussels they came up against the new European force of Paris Saint-Germain, losing 1-0 thanks after a first half goal from Bruno N’Gotty. PSG had also knocked Celtic out of the same tournament that season with a 4-0 aggregate win.
The 1990’s had seen a decline in domestic success for Rapid. Even with their Norwegian talisman, future Swindon and Middlesbrough striker Jan Åge Fjørtoft, as their top scorer they could not challenge city rivals Austria, who took the first three titles of the decade.
New contenders to the Austrian Bundesliga title had also emerged in the shape of SV Salzburg and Strum Graz, Rapid only winning one league championship in the 1990s. By the dawn of the new century Rapid’s decline only continued to such an extent that they struggled to even get into the top three in the league, Tirol Innsbruck, Grazer AK and Austria Vienna overtaking them.
By 2004/05 it seemed that Rapid was finally about to dominate Austrian football again, winning the league both that season and in 2007/08. However, a new presence was about to emerge, with the energy company Red Bull having taken over ownership of SV Salzburg in 2005. Now known as Red Bull Salzburg, the club’s new riches saw them win the league in 2005/06, adding another seven championship since, including the last four in a row. Rapid has been the closest challengers over the last three seasons, taking second place on all occasions.
There was a reunion with Celtic during the 2009/10 season as the clubs met in the group stages of the UEFA cup, drawing 1-1 at Celtic Park and 3-3 in Vienna. The latter game had echoes of the 1984 encounter with Celtic coming back from 3-0 down, but otherwise it was an unremarkable encounter, very different to the events 33 years ago which for ever shaped the relationship between Rapid Vienna and Celtic.
- The last 15 mins of all Rapid games their fans do a clap called “ Rapidviertelstunde” which encourages the team to victory – a constant feature since 1918.
- The Weststadion or Allianz Stadium has a capacity of 28,000 and was opened in 2016.
- After Celtic v Rangers the next most played derby game in Europe is Rapid v Austria Vienna.
- 01/02 season the club was managed by German legend Lothar Mathaus.
▪ 32 Austrian Championships
▪ 14 Austrian Cup wins
▪ 1 German Cup winners
▪ 2 European Cup Winners Cup Finals