Meet the Celtics: Vangelis Bita

In our interview series we take the time to get to know our players and members and get a little insight into their lives. We find out about their experiences of Gaelic football and hurling, how they came to the sports, their experience with the Celtics, life in Germany and in particular about life in our „Domstadt“. As well as that we look to discover any cultural misunderstandings or differences they have felt and the vital questions such as the best place to get a cold Guinness.

Here is Vangelis Bita. Our Greco-Albanian hurler who has been a Celt for almost two years now.

  • What brings you to Cologne?

I moved to Cologne in 2018 for my studies. I am studying Economics and, although I did my bachelors in Greece, I decided to come to Cologne for my Master’s. It has been a great two years for me with many great experiences and because I have made so many friends.

  • How did you come across the Cologne Celtics?

Many people ask me that question but it was partly out of luck and due to the club’s outreach and promotional posts on Facebook. It was the end of a tough first semester for me with a lot of studying, where I realized that I had overlooked my hobbies. I always liked doing sports therefore I decided to do that. However, growing up in Greece football, basketball and volleyball were the only options therefore I wanted to start something completely new and unique, like hurling.

  • Had you heard much about the GAA before starting playing with the Cologne Celtics?

To be absolutely honest I had no clue about the GAA and how big it is not only in Ireland but in other parts of the world. I was very surprised to learn about all the GAA teams in major cities in Germany and all over Europe. Not only through Instagram and their websites but I personally experienced that this last months on my Erasmus on Belgium. I have trained a couple of times (due to corona) with the local GAA team in Leuven, where I meet people from Spain, who told me about their club back home in Seville.

Vangelis Bita in action at Chorweiler – photo: Steffi Karrenbrock
  • How would you describe hurling and Gaelic Football?

Especially for hurling, this is one of the toughest questions and yet I have not found my way around it. I usually say to people that is a very unique Irish sport and tell them about the hurley and sliotar. I may add that it sort of resembles hockey, cricket, baseball etc. which is not very accurate. Alternatively, I show them some YouTube hurling compilations, which blow most people’s minds.

  • Which is your preferred sport – Hurling or Gaelic Football? Why?

Although I play and enjoy both games, for me it has to be hurling. I do not know if it’s because it was the first one I tried and learned or because it’s not like anything I have ever played but I really enjoy it. I am really fascinated by all the creative ways you can use the hurley and the skill aspect of the game, which took me quite some time to learn and in fact I am still keep learning. Moreover, its fast pace is addictive, although it can be seen as madness in the beginning. The physical aspect in both games is very nice but it feels a bit more enjoyable when everybody wears a helmet.

  • What did you know about Ireland prior to playing GAA?

My knowledge of Ireland before joining the club was just general knowledge about Saint Patrick’s, Guinness of course, famous Irish-American people and the famous Irish accent that I find very nice. But jokes and stereotypes aside, getting to meet so many different people and learning about their culture and life styles has been really an amazing unexpected outcome from joining the club. I am really happy that we have such a diverse and multicultural environment in the Celtics and we are much more than just some people training together.  

  • What does the Cologne Celtics GAA club mean to you?

I have been in the club for over one and a half years and everything happened so quickly but looking back I am very grateful that I joined the Celtics. All the members are very supportive not only on the field and during training but outside of that as well, in good or bad situations. During the Covid-19 lockdown back in March that was absolutely vital, trying to organize self-training and in-home activities to keep everyone busy and social even with the distance.

Vangelis after a hard training session at Chorweiler – photo: Steffi Karrenbrock

I could not really see myself without the club and this little community we have in the Celtics. People from all this different backgrounds coming together with a common goal which is having a great time for everybody.

  • How would you convince those who are interested but have not yet joined in to join their local GAA club?

I would say it’s so much more than just learning a new sport or a way to keep fit. It is actually a cultural experience and the team feeling is very strong. If that sounds interesting then go for it, it’s guaranteed to be good craic. As our club has done, I believe every GAA club would be very welcome and supportive to new-comers. Really, if you have a nice attitude and team spirit every training is going to be the most fun irrespective of your skill level.

Thanks a million Vangelis! efcharistó / go raibh maith agat 🙂 and looking forward to seeing you on the training pitch again!

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