Celtic v Inter Milan in Lisbon: The re-match

Written by Andrew Southwick.

STAG weekends are usually messy affairs - a weekend of debauchery followed by hangovers and a lingering fear of incriminating photos emerging.
 
However one group of enterprising Celtic fans went for something a bit different.
 
When Martin MacRury announced he was getting married, he decided to follow the trail set by the Lisbon Lions. However, this was to be no normal pilgrimage to Lisbon; Martin and his mates decided to put the European Cup on the line and win it for the second time.
 
Airline strikes, access to the pitch, turning the clock back to 1967 and even the Stone Roses stood in their way, but somehow in 2012 Celtic once again took on Inter Milan in Lisbon, on the same turf Jock Stein's immortals wrote their name into history, and with old big ears herself once more sat at the side of the pitch waiting for the winner.
 
Martin takes up the story: “I’ve always had a fascination with the Lisbon Lions, pretty much like every Celtic fan. I always had it in the back of my head that if I ever got married – me, my dad and my two brothers would go to the Estadio Nacional for a visit.
 
“I mentioned it to a few others, and very quickly it turned into a healthy group of us going. We were looking at a few websites and some were saying that you could get access to the stadium and others were saying you couldn’t. I had an old pal who now lives in Lisbon, so I asked him if he’d be able to check it out and ask on our behalf.
 
“He asked, and they actually said they were still amazed all these years later at the amount of Celtic fans who come over to visit. They said it’d be fine, we’d just arrange dates.”
 
With access to the ground sorted, the lads thought they may as well chance their arm and ask about the possibility of getting a kick about on the pitch. They were amazed when their cheeky plea got the thumbs up. Given the amazing opportunity to recreate the most famous 90 minutes in the club’s history, they got to work in making the game as authentic as possible.
 
“Obviously getting eleven Celtic fans to come across was the easy part,” continued Martin. “The tricky part was getting eleven people willing to play for Inter Milan.
 
“My dad, he’s 73, but he’s actually still quite fit. He only gave up playing football about six or seven years ago. So I said to him did he want to play. Obviously he couldn’t go whole heartedly but he was part of the team and played the 90 minutes.
 
“It was great for him. He actually got married in August 1967 so he was putting money aside for that and couldn’t make it over for the final, so it was the first trip for him too.”
 
Some of the lads line-up before the match
 
Anton Gallagher was one friend who jumped at the chance to don the Hoops in Lisbon, and he helped put the plans in place.
 
Anton continues the story: “We had a bunch of mates who were non-Celtic fans, so we were asking if they’d be up for being Inter Milan. So we had an Everton fan, a Man Utd fan, a couple of Rangers fans, a St Johnstone fan, a Kilmarnock fan - just loads of different clubs represented. But they were all good, game lads.
 
“I had seen in the shops some green and white long sleeved t-shirts that looked like the classic hoops top. So we got everyone’s sizes and bought eleven of them, and then bought white shorts and socks from a website which was also selling plain black and blue strips like the Inter one.
 
“So we then got the numbers put on the shorts like the classic Lisbon strips, and the Scudetto for the Inter team and got the wee star and that for them.”
 
With teams sorted, they had to make sure that one extra special guest could come on the trip too.
 
Anton continued: “After a good weekend of online betting a few good bets came in, so we went on Ebay and there was a life size replica of the European Cup for £250, so Martin bought it.
 
“It was sat in the living room table. Martin comes in, then his Mrs came in and seen it, his brother then his dad. They were all just sat round the table looking at it, no-one talking, just bemused and amazed by the size of this thing.
 
“Then it was a case of ‘How are we going to get that across to Lisbon?’ So we phoned the airline, and it worked out cheaper and probably safer to just buy a seat for it on the plane, so it was sat next to us.  There were a few funny moments getting it through customs.
 
“We were flying from Manchester, and we met the Stone Roses at the airport, so that was a funny moment too.”
 
If meeting the music legends had brightened their trip, it was hearing from a Celtic icon that put the icing on the cake.
 
Martin said: “I wrote to a few of the Lisbon Lions telling them what we were doing. I got a good luck card from Stevie Chalmers wishing us all the best.”
 
From top left: Dad Donald, brother Kevin, brother Donald M, and Martin

All seemed to be going to plan for the group, until disaster struck with just a week to go when the Portuguese airline they were flying with called a strike, throwing their plans into turmoil.
 
Martin said “I didn’t talk about it in the lead-up because I was too scared of jinxing it. Then a week before, the airline lined up a strike for that weekend. We were supposed to be flying out on the Friday, so half of us – the ones that could get extra time off work – flew out on the Wednesday because the strike started on Thursday, and the rest of them hung fire and toughed it out.
 
“Thankfully they announced as we were flying out that the strike was off, so we knew then the rest were going to make it. That would have scuppered us if half the team had been stuck at home. I had cousins coming down from the Western Isles and they had already shelled out a fortune getting from there to Manchester, so there was no way they could have booked another flight.”
 
Match-day arrived in Lisbon with the lads still unconvinced the game would actually take place at the famous ground, but found their hosts were good to their word.
 
“We were a wee bit in limbo,” said Anton. “We were worried that maybe they were putting us on a pitch nearby or something instead, and we’re thinking ‘Are we going to be on the actual pitch?’ There was still that element of doubt.
 
“The stadium hasn’t changed a bit, it’s perfect. We were in the changing rooms, and then you go into a really dark tunnel and walk out into the light, it’s a dead dramatic look.
 
“The pitch was a wee bit bumpy, but they put the nets and all that up for us and it was just brilliant. Our friend’s wife took a video of the game and their friend was taking photos.”
 
It was perhaps fitting that the match was to be as dramatic as the trip. With all the effort gone in to organising the 90 minutes, they now had to recreate history and win the game.
 
“The first half we’d missed a few chances, they’d taken theirs, and we were 2-0 down,” said Anton.
 
“Second half we went on the attack but they countered us and we were 3-0 down. So we were really down at this point.”
 
Martin added: “The fact that we were all Celtic fans, our minds were racing a wee bit. We couldn’t play our normal football because we were thinking about where we were playing. Every now and again when the ball went out of play you were just admiring the stadium."
 
With club pride at stake, and the weight of history on their shoulders, it was time for the Hoops to step up their game, and they didn’t disappoint. One of Martin’s best men led the comeback to make it 1-3, and then the chances began to come their way.
 
Anton said: “Martin had a chance one on one with the ‘keeper, and he blew it over the bar. Then we got a penalty, and he blew that over the bar as well! But it was retaken because there was a bit of infringement in the box from the Inter players, and he scored.
 
“Then we got another penalty and I scored it to equalise, so we’re at 3-3. And then with the last kick of the ball, genuinely, the groom himself scored the winner, so we legitimately got our hands on the cup.
 
Anton Gallagher nets the penalty to level the scores at 3-3
 
“We were able to go up and climb into the area where Billy McNeil got the trophy, it was just brilliant. All the lads loved it; even the Inter boys who aren’t Celtic fans thought it was a great experience as well.”
 
Martin said: “My cousin burst forward, squared the ball across to me, and I managed to squeeze it in from a tight angle. To get the chance to score at that stadium, then score the winner, was just brilliant, and then obviously going up to lift the cup afterwards.

“It was very surreal. For me to go over with my dad and two brothers and see the stadium was a dream come true. To get the chance to play on the pitch and recreate it all it was just very surreal and unbelievable.
 
“We were so lucky my pal over there got speaking to the right person, and he was so willing to do it. I think it was just an opportunity of a lifetime, and once you’ve got that chance you’re not gonna miss it."
 
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Comments  

 
+9 # joe 2012-08-15 16:13
What a great story. I am so pleased it all went well and we managed to wn the cup again.
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+9 # Adrian Brennan 2012-08-15 17:55
Great story!
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+10 # JB, Glasgow 2012-08-15 19:07
Absolutely magic lads!
I was getting excited just reading your story :-)
Hats off to you, what a treasure to keep.
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+6 # Brian Gallagher 2012-08-16 05:00
Brilliant story mate good luck great effort
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+4 # Brendan Seagrave 2012-08-16 16:56
Great story. Think I might have worked with brother Donald long time ago in East Kilbride.
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