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 Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

I thank James Dornan for lodging the motion in celebration of a fantastic achievement that today still stands tall in the history of Celtic and Glasgow.

Although I am not old enough to remember the game—I am really not—I feel like I kicked every ball on the journey, because my dad would always tell me stories about it. The fact that a team of 11 Scottish players, all born in Glasgow and the west of Scotland, were able to overcome the might of Inter Milan and that team’s infamous defensive football is a story worth retelling.

Jimmy Johnstone, Bertie Auld and Bobby Murdoch were the players that my dad would always talk about as I grew up, but when the time came for his heroes in Lisbon it was not those players who wrote their names into the history books. Celtic had already enjoyed a huge amount of domestic success that season, as they often would do for the remainder of Jock Stein’s tenure, while Inter Milan had fallen short in their own league, but the odds were still stacked against Celtic—a team of 11 boys from within 40 miles of each other, facing the might of the Italian giants.

Step forward Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers. I want to tell members a wee thing about Stevie Chalmers. My dad and his brother were orphaned very young, and Stevie Chalmers and his girlfriend used to come and get my dad and my Uncle Frankie and make sure that they got to the Celtic game, when he could. I thank him for that. My dad always spoke very kindly of him.

From one-nil down, Celtic scored twice to provide a fairytale ending in Lisbon. It was a Scottish club—a Glasgow club—that had made history. The fact that we are discussing it in the Scottish Parliament 50 years later is a testament to how significant an achievement it was.

Celtic, heroes of Lisbon, flew into Glasgow that night to find themselves the underdog heroes of the football world. Fans were wearing sombreros and wielding champagne bottles in delight. On the players’ return from their European success, the team bus was mobbed by thousands of jubilant Celtic fans all the way from the centre of Glasgow. My dad was at Parkhead that day and always said that he remembered it as if it was only yesterday. He told me that being at Celtic Park that day made up for not being in Lisbon for the game. The streets were lined with thousands upon thousands of fans, delirious and weeping openly, as they welcomed home the men who changed the face of football. At Parkhead, my dad and his friends were put on the back of a lorry and followed the procession route four times.

Winning the European cup was the making of the club; after that, everyone knew about Celtic. Never again have we seen scenes outside a football stadium like my dad did. The east end of Glasgow was brought together—people of all ages and classes—and given something to be proud of. Thousands and thousands of Glaswegians came together to appreciate their local heroes who had overcome all the odds to be crowned the ultimate champions of Europe and put Glasgow’s name firmly in the history books.

In the financial climate of modern football today, European success feels a long way away for any Scottish club. However, that aspect of communities coming together stands strong. We have debated in the chamber the antisocial behaviour in modern-day football, and we still too often see that side of the story. Perhaps we can look at the past and see the legacy of Lisbon and how it brought so many people together.

The legacy stands strong every second Saturday at Celtic Park. We should remember that fact when we talk about football fans today, for it is the younger generations of people like my dad who are dreaming of that success for their heroes.