...I visited the place where history was made; the Estádio Nacional do Jamor in Lisbon.
I wasn’t born when Celtic won the European Cup on 25 May 1967 with a 2-1 victory over Inter Milan but perhaps that just added to the immense feeling of awe I had when I visited the place where history was made; the Estádio Nacional do Jamor in Lisbon.
Walking around the old stadium – still used for the Portuguese Cup final – I could scarcely believe I was where I was. I’ve read so much about Celtic’s victory in 1967, heard stories from fans and family, seen clips, photos and even the full match on DVD that I felt almost as if I could see before my eyes the Lisbon Lions on the pitch as the sun began to sink in the district of Oeiras.
I pictured Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers scoring the vital goals, Jimmy Johnstone dancing about on the wing and even goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson executing that cheeky little backheel. I gazed up to the point where captain Billy McNeil hoisted the trophy aloft, an iconic moment in Celtic’s history, and smiled.
I may not have been “in the heat of Lisbon”, as the song goes, given that it’s late January, but I was standing in the ground where the Bhoys became champions of Europe.
I don’t know how the stadium looked close up in 1967 but I fancy it’s not changed a great deal. The Estádio Nacional feels a little antiquated and dilapidated; the stands are made of stone and tufts of weeds can be seen here and there, even a bit of flooding at one section. However, this only serves to enhance the feeling of historical significance.
I felt very much as if this trip had been a pilgrimage of sorts. It may have only taken me around an hour to get there – unlike the many fans who travelled from Scotland in 67 – but this was a place I had first heard about many years ago and many miles from here. It was an almost mythical place, laden with so much importance, so much legend and so much trivia in the history of Celtic Football Club that it was a privilege to behold it first hand. I spent a long time walking slowly around the stadium, ascending the stands, taking photographs and simply looking and taking it all in.
What Celtic did on the field I looked out on was unprecedented and will never be repeated. Eleven men born within 30 miles of Glasgow conquered Europe, becoming the first northern European team to do so and to this day Celtic are still the only club to have won the European Cup with a team comprised of players all from the same country. And, in the words of the man dubbed ‘immortal’ by Bill Shankly, manager Jock Stein, they did it playing ‘pure, beautiful, inventive football.’
In the minds of Celtic fans worldwide the Estádio Nacional is also immortal.