Sombreros & Beachballs
Earlier this evening I watched a rarity – a decent programme by STV. In this case, The Football Years. Last week they focused on a brilliant year for Scottish Football, 1967. This year it was the last day shootout that was 2003. A season where Celtic and Rangers went into the final game of the season on the same points and the same goal difference. A league that Rangers eventually won by just one goal, and when you consider they won 6-1 that day to do that, you’ll appreciate how big a day that was.
Also that year, Celtic went to Seville for the UEFA Cup final. Just a couple of days after making that, they had to visit Ibrox for the final time that season. The programme focused on the still elated Celtic fans turning up that day with all their Spanish gear, including a ridiculous number of inflatables including beachballs that got onto the pitch and briefly delayed kick off.
I had a bit of a problem with this. You see, I was there at Ibrox the day the beachballs delayed kick off. I was there to see the ground staff irately chasing them around a slightly windy pitch trying to burst them. I was there just after I got back from Barcelona having seen us knock them out of the UEFA Cup.
And there’s my problem. We knocked Barcelona out of the UEFA Cup in the 2003/04 season. The season in question on the TV was the 2002/03 season. They’ve got that wrong!
Or have they? Well, this has sparked off something of a debate on Twitter. I call it a debate, it’s actually all the other Celtic fans claiming I’ve got it wrong and that “Beachball Sunday” was after we made it to Seville.
Well, with all due respect to my fellow Celtic fans, they’re wrong. And here’s why.
Firstly, my attendance is one important factor. My first Old Firm game was the CIS Cup final in the 2002/03 season. I’ll not go into the controversy about how Rangers won that cup, but I’ll say that was the only Old Firm game I got to that season. It was my first season ticket season and I had one of the seats that got given up to the Rangers fans. It wasn’t until 2003/04 I figured out that I could apply for other tickets to get to the home games I was missing out on. And I did. Not only that, but I got away tickets for the first time in 2003/04 as well. So my first visit to Ibrox was October 2003. The game I call Beachball Sunday was in March 2004, and was my second visit to Ibrox. The game the others are calling Beachball Sunday occurred in April 2003 – before my first visit to Ibrox. So how can I have been part of Beachball Sunday if they all think it took place before I ever went there?
The problem here is that the two games are very, very similar. In April 2003, Celtic played away to Boavista and secured the result that took them to the final of the UEFA Cup in Seville. Just a couple of days later they went to Ibrox to play Rangers and beat them 2-1. In March 2004, Celtic played away to Barcelona and secured the result that took them to the quarter final of the UEFA Cup and a tie against another Spanish team in Villarreal. Just a couple of days later they went to Ibrox to play Rangers and beat them 2-1.
See how they’re similar? Given that they are now 6-7 years ago, they might just be starting to blend in.
Another issue appears to be the naming of the games. To me, the game I missed in 2003 was called Sombrero Sunday. The plan in 2004 was to have a Sombrero Sunday II, which was rechristened Beachball Sunday after the most memorable bit of the epic wind up – the beachballs blowing around the pitch just before the game. To others, the 2003 game is called Beachball Sunday, and the 2004 game is Beachball Sunday II. I don’t remember the beachballs being the prominent factor in 2003. The alliteration of Sombrero Sunday also seems to say it just goes well together.
I’m not disputing that both days were days of celebration for the Celtic support. Beating Rangers in their backyard is always good. These two games are both part of a run of SEVEN wins in a row against Rangers. The 2003 game was the first, while the 2004 game was in the middle of the five games against them that season where we won them ALL. I can’t quite remember if it came before or after the Scottish Cup game, but it was the third of the four league games. In fact, interestingly, of the seven wins these two are the only two where Rangers actually scored a goal. It was a great period of dominance over Rangers, despite the “tainted treble” they finished the 2002/03 season with!
By dispute is that Football Years used footage of the 2004 game in their review of the 2003 year. The pictures of the beachballs blowing around the pitch was something I experienced first hand. It’s one of my favourite memories of my favourite season as a Celtic fan. To mix that with a season that I really enjoyed but ultimately felt disappointed with is actually kind of annoying to me!
Anyway, don’t let my rant make up your mind who is right. I can prove what I’m saying thanks to video footage. The best example is to go get the Celtic DVD entitled “Green and Whitewash” which focuses on the five games in 2003/04 but also includes that last game from 2002/03. It has both Sombrero Sunday and Beachball Sunday on it. If you’ve got it I suggest you dig it out and see that I’m right.
If you don’t have that DVD, never fear. I have other proof. Firstly, there’s the photographic evidence provided by the BBC web site. Firstly, from the 2003 game we have this photo gallery: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/photo_galleries/2979717.stm – in it you only get a hint at the fun in picture 2. A rubber ring, not Sombrero annoyingly but no beachballs either. The 2004 gallery is more damning: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/photo_galleries/3576809.stm – the first picture has Neil Lennon warming up surrounded by the beachballs. The third picture has the hero of the Nou Camp, David Marshall, in action. He didn’t play for Celtic at all until the Barcelona game itself – it was his baptism of fire after Douglas was sent off in the first leg at Celtic Park and suspended for the second. The difference in the strips makes a difference too. The 2003 pics have the NTL sponsored panel strips we wore from the end of the treble season through the road to Seville. The 2004 pics have the 100 years of the hoops, a kit we wore after we made it to Seville and through the 2003/04 season. We actually wore an NTL sponsored 100 years of the hoops in Seville – the only game we did do that combination.
And finally, my favourite piece of evidence. A video from the BBC coverage of the March 2004 game on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lboi5ym7qhk – not only does it back up all the evidence I’ve offered already about David Marshall playing, the beachballs on the park, the difference in the strips – but the commentary from Rob McLean even references the Barcelona game just a couple of days before it. Actually, the video even explains that it’s four wins on the bounce for Celtic against Rangers prior to this one, so that must be the one after Seville, the first win at Ibrox that season – my first game at Ibrox, the new year 3-0 thumping at Celtic Park and the Scottish Cup win at Celtic Park. So this was the fifth of the seven, with Chris Sutton’s 92nd minute winner clinching the 2003/04 whitewash in the game after this, and the seventh coming from Alan Thompson’s boot at the start of O’Neill’s final season.
Yes, I’m incredibly geeky when it comes to statistics, especially about such a brilliant era for Celtic.
Honestly, this is nothing personal against anyone I’ve disagreed with about this tonight. But I really do believe I’m right about the Beachball Sunday thing. I admit that people seem to have different names for things, but then I’ve explained why I think they’re named the way they’re named in my eyes. If you still disagree with me… leave a comment and let me know why.