Dear Lisbon Lions,
I was recently watching a video of John Clark recreate the scene in the tunnel in Lisbon where you all sang the Celtic song as you awaited the okay to enter the pitch. I began to wonder what was going through your heads at that point. I wanted to know if you were nervous or confident or a mixture of the two. I wondered if you expected to win and if you knew that you were about to terrorise the unsuspecting Italians for 90 minutes.
I am pretty confident that you were not thinking about the ramifications of that victory. I assume you would have been thinking about the consequences of winning the cup, of course, but that’s not exactly what I was imagining. I was reading an account of the aforementioned scene and couldn’t help but tear up and I don’t know why. The game was played 15 years before my birth; my pride by association was tenuous to say the least.
But it’s this pride that you gave us on that night. You have shaped the mindset of every supporter that was alive at that time and every fan born since. I imagine fans have approached you over the years and told you how much it has meant to them, but I wonder if you really listen or do you think: ‘yeah, of course it meant a lot, we were the first team from northern Europe to do it.’ But do you know that you have been responsible for our sense of self since that day?
Do you know how it feels to be a child at high school and be able to shut down any Rangers fan by saying the date ‘1967’? Do you know that you were a template for school teams up and down the country, even 20 years after the event? And then the feeling we had when we’d go home and play video games and the Celtic badge would flash up on the screen? It was purely down to your achievements. You allowed us to have both a feeling of overwhelming pride and an appreciation of the sacrifice and hard work involved.
‘Guiliano, let it go, let it go, sooner or later they will get the winner.’ You didn’t just give us a sense of achievement, you gave us a style; an attitude that would infect every fibre of the club and the supporters. We didn’t just take on the best and win, we did it playing pure, beautiful, inventive football. We were a ‘Celtic force’ that tore teams apart. We were the cavaliers, the creators and the trend-setters. You gave us style and substance.
We are on a castle in Cardiff; our logo flashes up on the screen as the UEFA Champions League credits roll; we are a part of the group of champions in 2013; we are mentioned when Bayern Munich win every competition they enter in 2012/13; we have a star above our crest; we have the cup with the big ears in our trophy room. We are all of these things because of all you have done.
You are the Lisbon Lions and you are the fathers of everything we are.