Just three days remain until Cliftonville face Haugesund in the first leg of our Europa League First Qualifying Round tie – and the Red Army are looking forward to welcoming our Norwegian visitors.
Supporters travelling from Haugesund are guaranteed a traditionally warm greeting at the home of Ireland’s Oldest Football Club, who are pleased to do everything possible to make their visit to Belfast as enjoyable and memorable as we can (on the strict understanding that such hospitality may not necessarily extend to the pitch) and present a brief guide to everything you need to know about your upcoming trip.
Ireland’s Oldest Football Club, Cliftonville were founded on September 20, 1879 and the upcoming fixtures with Haugesund come at the beginning of our 141st season. As you can imagine, ours is a story rich in drama, intrigue and innovation and, though the Club History section of our website remains under construction, you can cast your eye over some of our landmark moments by clicking here.
After finishing fifth in the Danske Bank Premiership, Cliftonville maintained their record of being the only side to compete in the Europa League Play-Offs every year since their introduction in 2016 – and, for the third time in four seasons, emerged victorious. A dramatic Semi-Final win over Coleraine (when Paddy McLaughlin’s side triumphed 5-3 in Extra Time after being 3-1 down with less than a quarter of an hour remaining) was followed up by a decisive showdown with Glentoran who, having also been overcome at Solitude in the 2016 and 2018 Play-Off Finals, were beaten 2-0 courtesy of two Extra-Time goals.
One of the oldest football grounds in the world, Solitude was officially opened in 1890 and has played host to a number of sporting firsts in the 128 years since. The first ever penalty kick in international football was taken (and missed!) at Solitude, which was home to the Ireland teams of the 1890s and 1900s.
Though Haugesund will be Cliftonville’s first ever Norwegian visitors, defender Benjamin Hansen was part of the Nordsjælland side which recorded a 1-0 win at Solitude almost exactly 12 months ago.
This season marks Cliftonville’s 14th appearance in European competition and, though our first came in a Cup Winners’ Cup fixture against FC Nantes of France in 1979 (coincidentally played on our 100th birthday), it was not until as recently as 2007 that we enjoyed our first win in Europe, when FC Dinaburg of Latvia were eliminated from the InterToto Cup. Since then, we have recorded Europa League progress against HNK Cibalia (Croatia), FC Differdange (Luxembourg) and Barry Town United (Wales), as well as earning a first leg win over Kalmar (Sweden) en route to exiting the tournament in 2012 – with further details of our Euro record available here.
All Haugesund supporters are invited to the Europa League Fanzone at Solitude, which will open at 4pm. We’ll have live music and Burger & Beer offers as fans of both Clubs count down to kick off together.
As well as directing visiting supporters towards this guide to finding Solitude, Haugesund fans are advised that Cliftonville FC Partners fonaCAB will be pleased to provide a taxi service at an affordable price.
Any Haugesund fans who require additional information are welcome to email Cliftonville’s Supporters Liaison, Michael Hegney, at email@example.com, while anyone who has any questions about Belfast, hotel reservations and the easiest way to find Solitude can contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries you may have about your upcoming visit to our city.