In the months afterwards I made a trip to the Celtic Superstore to buy the DVD of the match. I wasn’t ready to watch it but needed to have it nonetheless, for when the time came. I’ve still not opened the box.
I watched the game from high up in the Porto end. The Porto fans were great, allowed us to celebrate with all the enthusiasm you could muster for goals in a European final, then wished us well as we made our way through them and out of the stadium. Had Celtic won while dropping like flies whenever an opponent coughed, it might have been different.
Porto were favourites and would go on to prove how good a team they were by winning the Champions League 12 months later. Their players would demonstrate their prowess across the world for the next decade. They had fabulous talent, so much so, that they should have aspired to better than the gamesmanship used during their run to the Uefa Cup and Champions League wins.
On the field it was a tale of great goals and heroic defeat, off the field, it was one of the most spectacular events in sport.
80,000 Celtic fans made the pilgrimage to Seville and treated the world to a carnival. The city became the scene of one of the largest parties the game had ever known. For me the pre-match schedule involved a two hour trip north before a panicked dash across the city collecting match tickets. What a stress!
There was 10 in our party and collecting the tickets took priority. Once we had them we could afford time to eat, but what? Several restaurants were sold out, we eventually found a café with frozen chips and a meat-based slab of something or other. No choices. No beer, wine or cola either, it was diluting orange juice or water. An entire city was pretty much emptied of food and drink.
You could forget about motorised transport to get to the game, we had to walk from the city to the stadium on the very outskirts of town. It was hot and dry. An enterprising local was selling a retained stash of cola at the side of the road at a hugely inflated price, no one passed him without buying.
This was a journey to a football game, but not one any of us were familiar with.
The long walk home from the game was memorable for the incredible reaction we got from the locals. They applauded each of us as we walked past their homes in recognition of what took place in their city throughout the day. Things like this don’t happen but that day was different. Seville, like Lisbon, will always remember Celtic. Fifa and Uefa made their Fair Play Awards the following year to Celtic fans, a nomination normally reserved for clubs.
I met a German couple in the hotel elevator. “Are you disappointed?” they asked. “No. We were beaten by a good team”. I had celebrated two Celtic goals in a European final and watched as we pushed a tremendously talented team to the brink. Disappointment comes a lot worse than this, although time brought regret.
Seville 2003 was not Lisbion 67 but it was a wonderful occasion in our very proud history. Let’s do it again.
For those who prefer their nostalgia with a bit of silverware, 10 men won the league, 24 years ago today. Big Billy was back and the Celts were in control.
Speaking of Lisbon 67…… Willie’s book, pre-order your signed copy now![calameo code=000390171179f475cf1c0 lang=en page=6 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]