Celtic, Scottish Football

The Lisbon Lions: How To Live Forever

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Good Evening.

It is a happy coincidence that the 800th Clumpany blog coincides with the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Celtic Football Club winning the European Cup in 1967.

Despite The Clumpany pouring out a torrent of surreal and occasionally pointed comments over the course of many thousands of words, I happily confess that I am utterly devoid of witty comments to make about the greatest football team ever to emerge from these islands.

‘Why bother saying anything at all then?’, you may ask. After all, that day in 1967 has been written about, discussed and dissected in a million different ways over the past half-century.

It is a fair question and my answer is simply that I wanted to say how utterly brilliant the anniversary celebrations have been.

For me, the Lions have multiple ‘personas’. All of them are praise-worthy and all of them have been applauded in the most fantastic way in recent days

The Lions as an exceptional football team have been saluted – not least through tributes from some of the greatest names in the game. However, the most striking tributes have come from the fans – in the 67th minute tribute during games this season, and through that jaw-dropping tifo prior to the final league game of the season against Hearts.

The Lions as individual human beings have been hailed in numerous interviews, profile pieces and documentaries. And yes we have been reminded of the passing of time with new photographs and footage of proud but ageing men which have been both uplifting and occasionally heartbreaking. An uncomfortable reminder that heroes can fade even if their heroism never will.

Then there has been the Lions as something akin to ‘rock stars’.  The event at the Hydro was without question big, spectacular and ‘loud’ enough to commemorate the magnitude of their achievement in Lisbon and their status as unquestioned giants in the world’s most popular sport.

And finally, the Lions as legends who accomplished deeds so fantastic that they could almost be mythical were it not for the TV footage and the physical evidence of that Big Cup which they brought home. The almost infinite variety of tales that we have seen in recent days of folk making the trek to the Estádio Nacional has reminded me of long-ago pilgrimages when people felt moved to travel long distances and make sacrifices to get as close as they could to something truly profound and to pay homage.

Of course, I am not suggesting that the Lions are religious figures. However, it feels as though the anniversary celebrations have been an expression of a sort of ‘faith’ for many, and they have certainly led to a great number of charitable acts and fundraising to help those less fortunate.

There is undoubtedly something about the scale and nature of the Lions’ achievement which speaks to people in a way that little else could – especially in the world of sport. If you want proof, you only have to look at the way a lot of people in the street, on the bus, in the pub and indeed on social media were happy and absolutely bursting with pride yesterday as they stopped to reflect on the glorious deeds of 25 May 1967.

The Lisbon Lions are not just a great football team. They are the heroes of a sport and a cause.

They also come across as throughly decent and humble human beings, who always have time and an encouraging word for other people. It is arguably this decency and humility – which most of us try (and often fail) to attain – which is the most remarkable thing of all about them.

Put simply, keeping your feet on the ground and remaining an example to others when countless people constantly shout about your achievements is a truly incredible thing to do. Especially over a period of many decades.

The 50th anniversary celebrations of the 2-1 victory over Inter Milan have been perfectly executed and all those involved in organising them should be applauded for their enormous efforts.

For obvious reasons I suspect there will never again be commemorations on the scale of those seen recently. However, it really doesn’t matter. Every single facet of who the Lions are and what they achieved has been marked in magnificent fashion and I have no doubt that wherever they go and whatever they do in the coming years, they will be left in no doubt about how much they are treasured.

And many years from now, when we are all gone, their achievements will still be remembered and spoken about with reverence.

This means that the Lisbon Lions will live forever.

Which is the very least that they deserve.

Thank you for reading.

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