Before I begin, I want to reflect on what has been a remarkable debate that has spoken of football’s reach, its cultural and societal impact and its power to do good.
Last night, although Monday’s tragic events in Manchester put life, politics and even football firmly into perspective, Manchester United’s victory against Ajax provided just a glimmer of light in this truly dark time. I place on record our congratulations to Manchester United on winning the Europa league.
I thank James Dornan for bringing the debate before Parliament this afternoon and other members for all the other contributions made across the chamber, including family memories and stories that were told often with great humour.
Unlike James Dornan, I am unable to remember that fantastic European cup win 50 years ago but, like all, I have seen the footage, both in black and white and in colour, and it remains as evocative today as it was then. The footage may be grainy, but the memories—and the place of the Lisbon Lions in history—will never fade. Jock Stein brought together a truly remarkable squad of players. Not only were the starting 11 all Scottish, but all hailed from within a 30-mile radius of Celtic park.
Like Pauline McNeill, I want to reflect on what Kevin McKenna wrote in his article—I am glad that she did not use the same bits as I want to use. I recommend that members read the article, in which he wrote:
“On one level, Celtic’s 2-1 victory in the European Cup final over Internazionale, the champions of Italy, must stand as Scotland’s greatest sporting achievement. Football then, as it is now, was the most popular sport in the world in terms of participation and commerce. That a squad consisting purely of men from the west of Scotland with no advantages or privileges of finance or sports science could win the world’s premier football tournament was considered improbable then. It would be regarded as well-nigh impossible now ... There was light and joy in Celtic’s play ... an exuberance that you might more commonly associate with Latin or African countries. It belied the grime and industrial drudgery of the places where the Lisbon Lions were reared.”
Celtic played “total football” before the phrase was even coined—they played the Glasgow Celtic way. Their victory remains iconic in Scottish sport; indeed it is an iconic landmark in British sport, as Celtic—as others have recognised today—were the first British club to win the famous trophy.
It is fitting that as Celtic celebrate the 50th anniversary of their greatest-ever season, they are having another hugely successful campaign. This is difficult to admit as a St Johnstone fan, but Celtic have been absolutely phenomenal this season. Not only have they remained unbeaten all season, they have accumulated more than a hundred points and scored more than a hundred goals. In terms of silverware, Celtic have already won the league cup as well as their sixth premier league in a row, and they will be looking to complete the domestic treble when they face Aberdeen in the Scottish cup final on 27 May.
Those achievements were recognised in the Professional Footballers’ Association Scotland and Scottish Football Writers’ Association annual awards, when the club’s achievements were recognised with a clean sweep: manager of the year going to Brendan Rodgers; player of the year to Scott Sinclair; and young player of the year to Kieran Tierney. It is a team that some have described as having a whiff of the Lisbon Lions.
I am delighted that the women are having a strong season, too. Celtic are near the top of the Scottish Women’s Premier League and competed in the Scottish women’s league cup on Sunday. I am also pleased that Christine Grahame, Pauline McNeill, Annie Wells and Gail Ross have shown that today, our beautiful game is for more than just men.
Scottish football sometimes makes the headlines for the wrong reasons, as Annie Wells noted, so I am delighted to be able to focus on the positives, as this Parliament comes together to celebrate one of Scottish football’s greatest achievements.
Like many members who have spoken, I love football and am a big football fan. The memories that it creates are phenomenal and last a lifetime. Celtic’s win in 1967 transcended clubs and geography. My dad—who was then a young man playing football for Kinrossie amateurs in Perthshire—remembers the win. He talks about it and how he cheered Celtic on. It is etched on Christine Grahame’s memory, even though she is not a football fan.
Football creates stories, it creates drama, it raises passions and it creates heroes. The Lions are undoubtedly heroes; so, too, are the heroes in tangerine, the terrors of Dundee United, who, 30 years ago, did Scotland proud again, narrowly missing out on securing the UEFA cup final but again placing Scotland on the world football stage. I commend BBC Alba’s documentary on their expedition into Europe.
George Adam and others spoke about our national team’s successes in that era, the 1960s, and rightly commended the phenomenal record of Jock Stein and his Glasgow district 11. Willie Coffey talked about the achievements of Kilmarnock and James Kelly recognised the Lisbon Lions’ win as his first-ever memory.
The memories are strong for every football fan. They might not always be of the glories of European cup games, but the power of football and its stories is why the Scottish Football Museum’s football memories work is so important for a reminiscence therapy approach to helping those with dementia.
As the mother of a wee boy who is daft on football, I know that 47 years from now, he will still be talking about when St Johnstone won the Scottish cup 50 years ago. I hope that we might even be talking about a win in between times.
Football inspires memories and has a reach that no Government could ever dare to emulate. That is why it is also important to put on record our thanks to Celtic and all the other clubs that do so much work off the pitch to help the communities that they serve.
In summing up, I recognise and celebrate the remarkable achievement of the Lisbon Lions, and I hope that everybody involved with Celtic Football Club enjoys the celebrations during the 50th anniversary.
I thank James Dornan for the opportunity for us all to come together as a Parliament to pay our respects to the immortal Lisbon Lions. Heroes live forever and I am glad that we are able to recognise what they achieved. We will continue to remember the way in which they went about winning the cup—not just for Celtic but for Scotland.
13:34 Meeting suspended.
14:30 On resuming—