NIR BITTON has revealed how he ended up lying in bed in tears after being sent off against Rangers.
The 30-year-old, who is leaving Celtic after nine years at Parkhead, recalled his dismissal in the Old Firm derby of January 2021, which Rangers would go on to win 1-0.
The midfielder said the aftermath was the hardest time of his life and that the emotional turmoil of feeling he let the team down on derby day left him not wanting to leave the house and forced him to take a break from social media.
Bitton told Israeli outlet Sport 1: “Rangers-Celtic is something I can’t even explain in words.
“It’s a hatred I’ve never encountered in terms of football and sports.
“In Old Firm week, if you win you can go naked in the city, if you lose you better stay home, cover yourself with all the blankets you can and disconnect from social media.
“Last year when I got the red at Old Firm, it was the hardest time of my life. I have never faced such a difficulty in my life. There were thousands of posts, I stopped counting, I stopped logging on to Instagram. I would find myself lying in bed crying.
“I said, ‘How did I get here?’ It was not an easy time, when my wife wanted us to go shopping I would tell her ‘Sorry, I’m not leaving the house’.”
The Israeli international racked up almost 250 games for the hoops and leaves Glasgow’s East End with a haul of 18 trophies.
But his game time had been sporadic in the past few seasons; indeed this season’s 24 league appearances was the most he made since the 2016-17 campaign, when he played 26 times. And in most cases he deputized for injured regulars or came on as a sub.
He’s now seeking a new challenge either back in his homeland or somewhere else.
Bitton admits it’s been an emotional week since his Celtic exit was announced and that he saw his career “flash before his eyes” during those final moments in the hoops.
He said: “It’s over because both parties came to an end.
“I signed a new contract in 2019, I ended it now after three years. They had an option to continue the contract, they offered me a new contract not on the terms of the option.
“For me, it’s not a matter of money, just I came to a kind of extraction. I won everything there, I played in all the possible stadiums against the biggest players and I want to experience something different, whether it is abroad or in Israel.
“The week before the official announcement of departure was very difficult for me. I cried a lot. I would see videos and the tears would come out. This is a club where I spent my whole career, I went through everything there: victories, sad moments, injuries, titles.
“I saw my whole career pass before my eyes in a few moments. In the last game, which was also a coronation game, I sat on the bench before the players came up, there was an exciting atmosphere.
“And when the Celtic crowd sang You’ll Never Walk Alone with the scarves in the air I cried and I could not control it. I owe a lot to Celtic for the trust and everything they have given me in my career and life.”
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