Soccer Football - Scottish Premiership - Dundee United v Celtic - Tannadice Park, Dundee, Scotland, Britain - May 11, 2022 Celtic's Reo Hatate in action REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Today is the day that Celtic learn their fate in the Champions League group stage draw with midfielder Reo Hatate hoping to emulate his fellow countryman in the competition.

On the day that Shunsuke Nakamura scored an absolute wonder goal against Manchester United to send Celtic to the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in the clubs history, Hatate celebrated his ninth birthday.

That goal is undoubtedly one of the finest Hoops fans have ever seen in the competition considering the distance from the goal, United’s keeper and the quality of opposition Strachan’s side were up against.

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Football – Celtic v Manchester United UEFA Champions League Group Stage Matchday Five Group F – Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland – 21/11/06
Celtic’s Shunsuke Nakamura celebrates scoring their first goal with his team mates
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It is likely that it even ranks as one of the best goals scored in the competition especially since it’s rebranding in 1992.

The 24-year old remembers watching on that fateful night and would love to capture some glory of his own for Celtic in the competition.

Hatate’s journey to Celtic has been very different to most players who have arrived at the club as the midfielder went through university in order to become a PE teacher and was unsure whether an opportunity like this would ever come his way.

He swiftly captured the hearts of Celtic fans after his brace against Rangers in his first derby game and any sort of repeat against Europe’s elite would write him into Celtic folklore.

“I still remember the goal that Shunsuke scored. It’s one of the most famous goals ever scored by a Japanese player. It’s fantastic for me to now be playing on that stage. A goal in any game is very important whether it’s a domestic game or the Champions League” said Reo Hatate speaking to the Daily Record. 

“But my countryman achieved a great thing by scoring that goal that night and I’d like to make my mark in the competition by scoring a goal like that. It would be great to create history like Nakamura did.”

Nakamura was also a regular for his international side, and with the World Cup on the horizon Hatate hopes that if he can deliver in the Champions League he may get a crack to represent Japan in Qatar.

“It would be a great honour if I could play for Japan at the World Cup. It’s the biggest stage in international football and, of course, once you play for your country once it becomes your ambition.

“But for me, the most important thing right now is to play very well for Celtic. To have a chance of playing at the World Cup, I have to give absolutely everything I can for my club in the next few months.

“If I’m not playing well there it will be difficult for the national coach to select me. But, of course, I hope to make the squad.

“Playing in the Champions League can help me do that as it’s the biggest stage in club football. Every game is watched all over the world.

“It’s been a big dream for me since I was a kid. The opportunity to play in it is one of the reasons I came to Celtic.

“Back then I didn’t imagine that I’d be looking towards playing in the Champions League one day. I’m not sure if I thought I could train players for the Champions League or that one day I would be thinking about playing in it myself.

“Although it wasn’t a normal path, in some way I think that my time at university helped me get to this point in my career. Because I took this different route into professional football, I think I appreciate what I have got at Celtic a little more.

“To play football for a profession is an amazing thing, but during those four years at university I also had a great time. Both experiences are important for me. I am happy with the path my life has taken to this point.

“This is why I am enjoying my life so much now. I love everything about being a professional footballer.”

 

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