Ricardo Costa is a Portuguese international full back and part of Jose Mourinho’s Porto side who narrowly won the UEFA Cup Final against Celtic in 2003. Aged 39 now with his playing days finished last year, Costa has reflected on that first major European triumph in his career. He admits he was blown away by the level of support that Celtic had in Seville and reckons Porto only came out on top because of the weather.
The former Porto star was an early substitute in Seville after Costinha was forced off with an injury, and he revealed that Celtic fans were at their hotel trying to get tickets from the Portuguese club. 80,000 Celts descended on the Spanish city and many tried to get into the ground by any means possible. Costa watched Porto fans sell their tickets to Parkhead fans who were bidding more than €1,000, and he joked that the Portuguese crowd got to celebrate twice that night as a result.
It is well documented that the heat in Seville was extreme on match day. Many a Celtic supporter developed sun stroke or sunburn, whilst it was tough for the players on the pitch too. Both teams struggled with the temperatures in the Spanish city and, according to Costa, the heat played a big part in the final result of the game after extra time.
Speaking to Portuguese outlet TVI24, he said: “I remember the scorching heat that was felt in Seville, the thousands of Celtic fans in and out of the stadium. There were less there for FC Porto, which was felt at decisive moments in the game and helped their team a lot with its support.
“Even people who didn’t have a ticket to go to the game went to the door of our hotel. They still had around 40,000 people out there who wanted to enter. Some FC Porto fans sold the ticket and watched it on television. And so they celebrated twice.”
It was a magnificent game for the neutral, while it was an occasion that was magnificent for UEFA. A five goal thriller, Porto stole victory in extra time, though Celtic fans are left with many regrets. What if Bobo Balde didn’t get sent off? Could Rab Douglas have done better for the goals? What if Porto didn’t time waste and dive?
Regardless of the speculation, Costa added: “It was 42 degrees. Our president had a break and he felt bad about it. And even we players had some concentration issues because it was physically very demanding to play 120 minutes under those conditions.
“In fact, Celtic ‘died’ in extra time and in the transition we were lethal. We scored, they drew. Until we go into extra time with that feeling of ‘it has to be now’ and when we did 3-2 with five minutes to go.
“When we all fell there on the pitch to celebrate, we thought: ‘No one else will ever take this away from us’.”