Celtic’s European Cup Win (50th Anniversary)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 25 May 2017.

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Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I congratulate James Dornan and thank him for lodging the motion, securing the debate in Parliament and allowing so many members to share their memories of such an important occasion.

It seems to be one of those debates in which people reveal their ages. I was three and a half at the time of the 1967 cup final; it is my earliest memory in life, and I remember so well the excitement in the house and the game coming on the television. I would not say that I understood football a great deal at the time, but I realised the importance of the occasion and remember the excitement when Celtic won.

A lot of families had their own representatives in Lisbon, and mine was no different. Our representative was my grandfather James Kelly, who I am named after and who got there courtesy of winning a newspaper competition. That was quite good, because he did not even know that he had entered it—my dad had done it. Those who entered had to name all the teams that Celtic played on the way to the final and then come up with a caption; my dad’s caption was “Clean sweep soots the Celts”—and certainly as far as my grandfather was concerned, a clean sweep really did suit them. He thoroughly enjoyed his time in Lisbon, not just, as I understand it, the football but the celebrations after the game.

Fast forward to April 1980: I had saved up for one of those projection kits that were advertised in

Shoot! magazine and which were used to show football films. When it arrived, all of us—my brothers Jack, Frank, Tony and Gerard and my friends Gerry Foyer, David Gibbons and Paul Wilson—crowded into my house in Halfway. This was in the days before YouTube, so we had not really seen any footage of the game, apart, perhaps, from the goals; when we ran the 10-minute silent black-and-white film, we could not believe how good Celtic were. We watched for the first time the famous Ronnie Simpson back-heel as he took out an Inter Milan defender; we watched Jimmy Johnstone run rings round the defence; and we watched Tommy Gemmell’s ferocious shots.

These were also the days before people compiled statistics of games. Since then, though, the statistics of that game have been compiled, and they show that Celtic had 45 shots on target while Inter had only three and that Celtic had 10 corner kicks while Inter had none. It must be the only time in the history of European cup finals that a team has not had a corner, and it only shows Celtic’s dominance. We could not believe the absolute quality of Celtic and how good they were—even in a fuzzy, black-and-white film.

The other day, someone challenged me to say why the Scottish Parliament should be debating a game of football that was played 50 years ago. There are two reasons. As James Dornan has said, this was a victory for the working-class community. It also showed that 11 players who lived within a 35-mile radius of Celtic Park were able to take on the best in Europe and win, and my family, like a lot of working-class families in Glasgow and west central Scotland, took great pride in that victory. Indeed, they still do, and it is something that is still shared with families.

This was a fantastic achievement by the Lisbon Lions, and it is a great piece of history that is still very relevant to many families. I also think it relevant that James Dornan has been able to secure the debate and allow us to celebrate that tradition.