The small village of Copmanthorpe – affectionately known as Cop – is located just outside York and consists of two pubs, a Co-op and some of the finest manicured lawns in all of England. At the centre of it all you’ll find Patrick Solich, a resident since birth and holder of the most important position in the whole village; left-back for Copmanthorpe F.C. Reserve team. In a regular column, he’ll chronicle what it is like being a footballer on the smallest stage possible. In this edition he finds himself in Lisbon on the eve of the anniversary of Celtic’s greatest triumph.
Wednesday 25th May, and our flight from Madrid arrived into Lisbon around midday, where myself and two long-time friends had spent two days exploring the Spanish capital. Rich, a die-hard Manchester United fan had the big Europa League Final on his mind, and his main priority was finding a bar to watch the game in. Phil was looking forward to supporting Ajax just to wind up Rich.
I grew up with these two in Copmanthorpe, and back in the day we all played for the Cop junior sides, from U-11 through to U-16, spending most of our Sundays on the recreation ground, trying to emulate the players we’d watched on Match of the Day the night before. We often look back on the glory days of Cop Juniors, reminiscing about a hat trick, a win against local rivals and the big part all of this played in our younger lives.
Flying into Lisbon we saw the green and white of Sporting’s stadium, the red and black of Benfica’s, and a third stadium we didn’t recognise, but would later learn all about. We arrived and found our our Airbnb apartment. It was at the top of an old cobbled street where Diogo greeted us and showed us our cool little place overlooking the harbour and the railway station. He also gave us some insider information on the places to see, food we had to try and most importantly, somewhere to watch the match. Predictably enough he pointed us in the direction of Hennessey’s, the city’s best Irish bar, as I found some washing powder and gave my clothes a bit of a freshen up in the sink.
Diogo was soon off on his bike back to work, and left us to get our stuff sorted and head off into the city, leaving my freshly washed clothes hanging from the line on the balcony. The walk into the city was a great introduction to Lisbon, the cobbles and hills distinctive of the old port town, winding little roads and old shops ran by old couples selling trinkets and souvenirs. Little bars would appear, frequented by Lisbon’s older generation, smoking and drinking and going through their own daily routines, us tourists not a bother to these guys. Crumbling old buildings and bricks battered by the sun, the sun now beating down on us as we made our way down the hill.
Soon these streets opened into the hustle and bustle, courtyards and tourist spots of the city centre, and what a great looking city it is. Statues of Jose I and other kings on horseback are dotted around the squares, the religious relics and churches, the bay looking over to the Fatima and the Ponte de Abril Bridge, and behind us on the hill the Castillo de san Jorge. So much to see, so many views and so many streets to explore to find the next great spot. We stopped off for a couple of Sagres in the main square, and were soon inundated with street sellers flogging cheap sunglasses. We soon realised that this wasn’t the only thing they sold, with a wide variety of drugs also available for purchase (not that we did if course).
Further exploration was required for the remainder of the afternoon, much more to be found than the more modern feel of Madrid. Here everything looked old and weathered, the ceramics on the building slightly faded by the climate, graffiti on the walls and on the trams, and tuk- tuks peddling by showing fellow tourists around, and then one more beer and a world famous pasties and we headed to Hennessey’s.
The outside of the bar was a great footballing supporter’s scene, with fans sporting three of the most famous football colours in Europe. The red and black of Manchester, the red and white of Ajax and the green and white hoops of Celtic. Being an Irish bar we expected some Celtic, but there were more than we thought, in addition to the many we’d also seen some during the day out and about in the city. We made our way to the bar, ordered some cheap beer and found a good view of one of the many TV’s. We had made great effort to try the local cuisine in Madrid, but for tonight a burger would have to suffice. On the walls were the usual old pub signs and the great Guinness artworks, and alongside this was an advertisement for an Irish singer playing from 11pm in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Celtic’s win in the European Cup against Inter Milan, played at Lisbon’s national stadium. The presence of the many Celtic fans and the third stadium we’d seen on our way in had been explained.
The food and more beer arrived, line-ups were announced, and with the pre-game pleasantries over and done with the final was underway. The youthful Ajax side full of skill, potential and promise started nervously, which the well drilled and focused United side took full advantage of. After the early Pogba goal all the strings were pulled by Mourinho, and the cup destined for Manchester.
By the final whistle it was 2-0, Rich was singing away and Phil and I had got chatting to a Danish couple and their daughter about the game, about Peter Schmeichel and about beaches we could go to the next day. The next day Phil matched with the girl on Tinder, but unfortunately it never happened. The atmosphere by now was livening up, the Ajax fans still singing, and the Celtic fans getting ready for their sing song at 11pm. Back at the bar Rich had struck up a conversation with on older guy, discussing the game and soon enough talk turned to the guys in green and white.
Jimmy was soon enthralling us with tales from Celtic Park, of going with his dad as a kid, of now taking his son to the games, the season just gone, what Brendon Rodgers had to do this summer to strengthen the squad, or more importantly the payers they had to keep hold of. Rich asked where the fun was in watching all these teams come to Celtic and get thrashed, but Jimmy said there was plenty, and the football was much better than under Ronny.
More football chat flowed, as did a few more beers. Talk turned to football south of the border, of Phil’s Spurs side under Pocchetino, my own Stockport team and our current plight in the Conference North; all the stuff fans talk about when they meet other fans, the joys of these conversations and our love of the game itself and our own teams. Phil headed off home while we were joined by Paddy, Jimmy’s son. He’d been outside with other fans planning the next day’s itinerary, the big 50th anniversary celebrations.
They were all meeting back at the bar at noon, then making their way to the National Stadium for a pilgrimage of sorts. The clubs had arranged for a tour of the ground, a meal and drinks and some of the players from the final being there to remember the game. One family had set off from Glasgow in a 1967 model car just as they had done 50 years ago. There was real passion when they were talking about it, and you could tell that it meant so much. It would be something Paddy and Jimmy would remember for the rest of their lives, as would the rest of the Celtic family that has made the trip. As the Irish songs were sung along to, and our chat with Paddy and Jimmy continued into the night it was clear that even though Man United won the cup, the evening belonged to our new friends and the Celtic fans at Henneseys.
The following morning we made a late start, Phil headed out for coffee and picked some of my clothes off the street that had fallen from the line, and we packed our bags for the beach. After sardines at the amazing Time Out market we went to the station; in front of us a family of Celtic fans, three generations in the green and white, heading to the National stadium to celebrate, and trying to figure out how to work the ticket machine. We wished them well and told them to look out for our pals Paddy and Jimmy.