IT'S official. Celtic fans have been declared the best in the world by football's governing body.

Fifa yesterday announced that 80,000 Celtic supporters who travelled to Seville for last season's Uefa Cup final had been awarded world football's Fair Play award for their ''exemplary, fair, and cordial conduct''.

The award follows the equivalent accolade given last August by Uefa for the part the fans played in the team's run to the final, where they were defeated by Porto.

The latest award will come as some consolation to fans of the Glasgow club, who were still licking their wounds yesterday after narrowly missing qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday.

Peter Lawwell, Celtic chief executive, and Eddie Toner, general secretary of the club's supporters' association, will collect the latest award at the Fifa World Player Gala in Switzerland on Monday.

Mr Lawwell said the award was a ''superb and fitting tribute to the army of Celtic supporters'' who followed their heroes to Spain last summer.

He said the 80,000 Celtic fans lucky enough to be in Seville created ''one of the world's greatest sporting spectacles'' and added: ''Personally speaking, it's one which will live in the memory for a lifetime.''

Mr Lawwell added: ''Together with the outstanding efforts of the team, this massive, passionate, and universally friendly support helped put Celtic on the global footballing map to a degree not seen since the European Cup win in Lisbon.

''Thanks to their exploits across Europe in recent years, Celtic's travelling supporters have now become a byword for good-natured sporting friendship and unswerving devotion to their team.''

Mr Toner also welcomed the accolade, saying: ''Celtic's supporters have a reputation in football which is unrivalled and this award, added to the Uefa Fair Play award presented earlier in the year, simply reaffirms the standing of Celtic supporters across the world.''

He added: ''I am sure all supporters will be delighted with this tremendous honour. Last season was a great adventure for Celtic supporters, culminating in a wonderful experience in Seville.

''The supporters were a credit to Celtic Football Club.''

Martin O'Neill, the Celtic manager, who yesterday welcomed his side's draw against FK Teplice, from the Czech Republic, in the third round of the Uefa Cup, also took time out to praise the fans following the Fifa award.

He said: ''The Uefa Cup final last season was a fantastic occasion and the atmosphere was made all the more special by the thousands of Celtic supporters who travelled to Seville. They all richly deserve this recognition from Fifa.''

John McMillan, general secretary of Rangers Supporters' Association, was also ungrudging in recognising the honour to fans of his team's oldest rivals.

He said: ''Fifa do not hand out accolades like this lightly. The Celtic fans' conduct in Seville was a great credit to themselves, to the club, and to Scotland. No-one can deny that, regardless of their allegiance.''

It also emerged yesterday that the Tartan Army were praised for their behaviour in the Netherlands despite Scotland being crushed 6-0 by the Dutch in the Euro 2004 return play-off match in Amsterdam.

The Dutch Football Association and the management of Amsterdam ArenA have written to commend the fans' ''perfectly expressed'' sportsmanship.