Celtic FC striker Marc-Antoine Fortuné wil face his old side FC Utrecht in the UEFA Europa League this week, in an encounter that will revive sombre memories as well as old friendships.
Article top media content
Marc-Antoine Fortuné will say a prayer for a friend and former team-mate before turning his attention to helping Celtic FC reach the group stage of the UEFA Europa League at the expense of his old club FC Utrecht.
The French Guiana-born striker believes his two years in Dutch football - from 2005-07 - transformed his career but they also left him with painful memories. Midway through his first season at Utrecht, Fortuné's close friend and team-mate David Di Tommaso died of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 26.
"David was such a good friend and five years on it's still really hard to talk about it," said Fortuné. "He was the reason I signed for Utrecht and we were even neighbours in the same building. I found it difficult to play football immediately after it happened.
Football is part of us but when someone dies you realise it isn't the most important thing. I still think about him a lot. Before every game I pray for him. He is still with me and it's always like that when you lose somebody who means something to you."
The 29-year-old is looking forward to renewing old acquaintances in Thursday's first leg at Celtic Park but in the wake of their UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of SC Braga, Fortuné admits it would be unthinkable for the Glasgow club not to have European football to look forward to this season.
"When you play for Celtic you cannot think about having a season without European football," he explained. "We have to be in Europe every year and it's important we win this game at home to give us a chance of going through to the group stage.
"It will be an emotional night for me. I know a lot of the players including my friend Francis Dickoh and the coach who signed me, Foeke Boy, is now back as director of football," added Fortuné. "I will be really pleased to see him again but we have to be up for it and approach the tie properly. There isn't much between the two teams but I think Celtic are the favourites because we are the bigger club and we are used to playing in the Champions League or Europa League every year."