Celtic’s Long Road to Lisbon – “Celtique 2 Inter 1, 25/05/67” and “I was there!”

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I did have another reason for not immediately going onto the park. Those memories of earlier times came flooding back. The people, friends and family, who had taken me to games as a youngster. My family who had had a love for Celtic for over 60 years. None of them were there but I was. My first game had been a not too surprising defeat to Third Lanark. Now little more than 6 years later they had gone defunct and we had won the European Cup.

My reverie only lasted a few seconds and I headed down towards the pitch to join my mates. As I got up on to the boundary wall I did not think the “moat” was too much of a challenge but a smiling Portuguese policeman with a gun “suggested” I stay where I was. I made my way round to the side of the pitch near the where the team benches were and tried to spot Alex and the others.

25/5/1967 European Cup Final 1967.
Inter Milan v Celtic.
Celtic fans and players run on to the pitch to celebrate their European Cup victory.
Photo: Offside / Mirrorpix.

Just then I was suddenly aware of something happening away up on the other side of the stadium. I am not sure how it caught my eye. Most people on the pitch had not noticed anything up there. It was Big Billy getting presented with the Trophy. I had my cheap little Woolworths camera with me and took a snap. Unfortunately my camera was very unsophisticated with no zoom lens but it did mean I had my own photo of Cesar lifting up the European Cup.

A few minutes later Alex spotted me and came running over. Possibly he thought that being a year older he maybe had to do a bit of looking after me. “Here – something for you” he said and handed me a sod of the turf which went into my pocket and was eventually planted in a plant box at the front door of my parents’ house.

Neil and Shanzy had their sods too although I did wonder how they would look after them on the long walk home. They told Alex of a bar they had found the night before – it was like a British pub more than a Portuguese bar they said and we agreed to meet there later. Alex and I got on our bus for the journey back into the city. All along the route we were cheered by locals many of them waving green and white colours as we passed.

Then we were in a taxi with Alex trying to explain to the driver where we wanted to go. I was glad of Alex’s company. He seemed more assured of the situation than me. Even getting a taxi was foreign to me. My family would only have used a taxi for something like a wedding or a funeral.

The taxi trip was short and as we got out of the vehicle a bus went past with the sounds of the Celtic Song coming from it. As we glanced up at it we realised it was the team bus.

A few minutes later we were in a busy, noisy, jubilant bar. It was the first time I had been inside a pub. Someone, I am not sure who, thrust a pint of lager in my hand. After all the heat and excitement of the day it was the most enjoyable and refreshing drink I had tasted in my life. There was no singing in the pub, just excited chatter with everyone trying to tell everyone else how they felt.

25/5/1967 European Cup Final 1967.
Inter Milan v Celtic.
Celtic fans gather on the pitch to celebrate their teams European Cup victory.
Photo: Offside / Mirrorpix.

I met an Australian guy who by chance had arrived in Lisbon earlier in the week as part of his big OE as the Aussies call it (Overseas Experience). He was amazed at the enthusiasm of so many people who had travelled so far to see their team. He had got completely caught up in the atmosphere in the city over the last few days and was celebrating as if he had come from Shettleston rather than Sydney.

At one table though sat a couple of guys looking subdued. It turned out their bus had broken down en route and the passengers had all had to scramble into whatever alternative transport they could to get to Lisbon. These two had actually got to the stadium a few minutes before the final whistle. So near and yet in a way so far. I did feel a few pangs of regret on their behalf. Soon it was time to head back to our bus for the airport and we said our goodbyes to the hitchhikers and all the other revellers.

The bus was surprisingly quiet. Some of that no doubt due to the fact that we were not like a normal Supporter bus where everyone knew each other. We were travelling in groups of 2 or 3 and had generally gone our way at the game and afterwards. However I suspected that the relative quiet was also a result of people taking in what we had just achieved.

The Portuguese bus driver seemed to think we should be making more noise and waved his microphone to try and encourage some singing. One lady did take up his offer and sang “Galway Bay”. Someone else at the back sang a bit of “Kevin Barry” – Neither of those songs are particularly raucous or celebratory but that did not spoil the feeling of quiet elation.

The flight was of course delayed and I spent some time at the airport in conversation with an older Portuguese gentleman who was eager to discuss football with us. We conversed in a mixture of broken English, Spanish and Portuguese and I discovered he had a reasonable knowledge of Scottish football including the “cultural” differences between Celtic and Rangers.

He signed the green and white ribbons on my flag and wrote “Celtique 2 Inter 1 25/05/67” beside it. He then put his name and address on the inside page of one of dozen or so programmes I had bought. It was well after midnight before we took off and it was almost 6am when I got home. 24 hours from leaving for the greatest day in my life.

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