The spirit of the Lisbon Lions came roaring back to life last night in a one-of-a-kind match that saw Celtic fans become their heroes.
Organised by main club sponsor, Magners Irish Cider, the Pride of Paradise game gave those with the same surname as the original starting line-up the chance to relive the club’s most magical moment – winning the European Cup in 1967.
Thousands of people with same surnames as the original Lisbon Lions squad – Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Lennox and Fallon – applied to play at Celtic Park before the final lucky few were chosen, including fans from Bournemouth, the Shetland Isles and throughout Scotland.
A Lisbon Lion – for the day
The Pride of Paradise Celtic squad received some motivational words from Lisbon Lion, Jim Craig, who shared Jock Stein’s pre-match talk to him and his team-mates before they ran out onto the Estadio Nacional pitch in the Lisbon sunshine fifty years ago this week; “Just get out there and enjoy it”.
“Jock was pretty straight to the point before the game,” said Craig. “He told us that, above all else, we needed to throw ourselves into the 90 minutes that lay ahead – that this was a wonderful experience no other Scottish team had ever been given the opportunity to enjoy. It was a big moment, in a big stadium – exactly what the guys who played tonight got.”
The advice paid off – the eponymous Lions were triumphant again, winning 7-6 against an Inter Milan team made up by members of the sports media from throughout the UK. The Lions fought their way back from a 3-0 deficit to snatch a victory, with Michael Wallace slotting five past the Inter goalkeeper.
At the end of the game, there were smiles all round as players from both squads had the opportunity to be photographed with the European Cup, SPFL Premiership trophy and the League Cup.
Jim also awarded 5 goal hero Michael Wallace, Willie Wallace’s namesake with ‘Man of the Match’; “Tonight, I was looking for that Lisbon Lion spirit – someone willing to put a shift in, who was a grafter on the pitch but who also interacted well with his team mates and had a little flair. Normally it can be a difficult choice to select the “Man of the Match” but Michael made this the easiest of calls with his 5 goal performance”.
“As a spectator this time around, it’s obviously been a lot less nerve-wracking than the original match – but it’s definitely created memories of a lifetime for those who took part.”
After the game, players, friends and family enjoyed Magners Cider in the Jock Stein hospitality lounge. All players left with an exclusive goody bag that included the new Celtic 2017/18 home shirt, a Limited Edition Lisbon Lions bottle of Magners, a DVD of the 1967 Lisbon Final and other Magners goodies.
Paul Condron, Marketing Director at Magners Irish Cider, said: “Magners wanted to mark this monumental anniversary in a special way. Over the last 50 years, Celtic supporters have dreamt of being part of the club’s greatest and most celebrated side, so we are delighted to have been able to help make that a reality for one night only.”
Iain “John” Clark from Pennilee, who played last night, said:“I’m originally from England but moved to Scotland twenty years ago. Right from the start, there was only one team for me – Glasgow Celtic. I was born the year after the Lisbon Lions triumph but it was the stuff of legend for any football fan. My wife’s uncle was actually at the game in Lisbon and hearing him talking about it was magic.”
“Being the first British club to win the European Cup was something that the whole country could take pride in, so getting picked to be part of tonight’s squad was a real honour. I hadn’t kicked about a ball in years but there’s just no way I could pass up the opportunity to be involved in something as amazing as this. I loved every minute of it.”