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  • Lions leave their mark again in Lisbon

    Lions leave their mark again in Lisbon

    By: Mark Henderson on 27 May, 2014 14:41

  • THE Lions returned to Lisbon at the weekend 47 years on from when they achieved greatness in the Portuguese capital, and once again their visit was a spectacular success.

    On May 25, 1967, 11 players all born within 30 miles of Celtic Park defied the odds to sweep aside Inter Milan 2-1 in the Estadio Nacional and became the first British side to become European Champions. It was the greatest day in the history of Celtic Football Club.

    The adventurous, swashbuckling style of Jock Stein’s side was also considered a victory for football over the defensive, ‘catenaccio’ tactics of the Italians. It drew admiration from across the world and sparked a resurgence of attacking football among European football.

    The Lions' achievements were never forgotten by the city of Lisbon, and despite the passing of almost half a century, Billy McNeill and his team-mates - sadly minus some of the squad and the backroom staff who are no longer with us - received a warm reception wherever they went on their return.

    Accompanied by their iconic piece of silverware, the heroes of 1967 were officially welcomed back to the Portuguese capital on Saturday morning at Lisbon City Hall, where they were greeted by representatives of the council and given a guided tour of the building.

    They then visited a gallery dedicated to the past European Cup winners along with the official UEFA Champions League museum, happily posing for pictures with locals and supporters of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, who were in town ahead of the UEFA Champions League final.  

    TV cameras and journalists were also keen to hear their story and the Bhoys were delighted to tell their tale of triumph to a new audience across the globe.  

    Special guests in the Estadio da Luz for this year’s showpiece event, the Lions watched Real overcome their city neighbours 4-1 after extra-time in a compelling contest.

    But they will always be the first team to be crowned kings of the continent in Lisbon, and the next day they returned to the scene of their stunning success – the mystical Estadio Nacional stadium, which, surreally, is largely preserved in the same state as it was in 1967.

    The climax of the trip was a special dinner and reception at the Palacio Hotel in Estoril, their base for their conquest of Europe.

    Their presence quickly attracted the attention of a wedding party and the Bhoys were happy to oblige the clamour for pictures from the bride and groom, and guests young and old.  

    In front of dignitaries from Glasgow, Lisbon and the British Embassy in Portugal, the Lions recalled their memories of making history and spoke of their continued camaraderie, while their anecdotes filled the air with laughter.

    The Club’s charitable tradition and ethos were also highlighted during the event as Celtic FC Foundation handed over 12,000 Euros to benefit three good causes based in the local area.  

    It was a fitting end to a memorable trip, in which the Lions had proved wonderful ambassadors for Celtic and further enhanced the reputation of the Club on foreign shores.

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