30 Day Challenges… Day 6
Yeah, I’m only doing these on week days! My rules! Day 6 for the football challenge is “A Match That Reminds You Of Somewhere”. Well, as I said previously I’ve been to quite a few places following Celtic but one place sticks out more than any. Seville.
2003. I’d never been to a Celtic game in Europe away from Celtic Park. But with Celtic in the UEFA Cup quarter finals against Liverpool – a position in Europe we hadn’t been in since I was in nappies – it was time to take a chance. The UEFA Cup final tickets for that year went on sale. No guarantee Celtic would be there but I figured if Liverpool knocked us out they’d probably make the final and it would be good experience to go anyway. So, two tickets were duly ordered at 6am. The system crashed about ten minutes later, but we were sorted.
Celtic knocked Liverpool out, then drew with Boavista in the first leg of the semi final. Just as it seemed we’d miss out on away goals as time ticked away in the second leg, up popped Henrik Larsson to score the only goal of the game. To know your team is in a European final for the first time in 33 years is a tremendous feeling. To know you have tickets for that game and you’ll be there to see it… It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Of course, we hadn’t booked flights or anything. In the end the closest we could get to Seville was to book a week’s holiday in Benidorm. That’s the other side of Spain for those that don’t know! So we flew there the day before the game, rented a car the following morning and drove for most of the day through picturesque south Spain. Gorgeous countryside and something I don’t think I’d have seen otherwise.
We got parked pretty near the stadium. I was ready to go in, but my dad wanted cigarettes. Typical I thought, and we went looking for somewhere selling them. I was moaning about it until we turned one corner and were met with a sea of green and white. A street absolutely choked full of Celtic fans. Never seen anything as amazing before or since.
We eventually got the cigarettes and headed back to the stadium. Got through all the security and even though we knew the tickets were real there was that apprehension that it might not let us pass. But it did and we got to our seats… which had other fans in them. They wouldn’t move, so eventually we sat on the stairs for the game.
I don’t remember much of the early part of the game. Mainly because I was in a queue for water. But I do remember Porto scoring just before half time. Gutting. At least until the second half started and we levelled it thanks to probably the best headed goal I’ve ever seen. Henrik managed to curve it somehow and it went in off the post.
Then Porto scored again. But then so did we. The rest of the second half looked like we had a chance of getting the winner, but it wasn’t to be. Porto regained the upper hand in extra time and then we were reduced to ten men. Could we get to penalties? Nah, Porto scored again and won the cup.
Disappointment in the end but what a showpiece final. Celtic were given all sorts of awards for their fans – all 80,000 of them estimated to have gone there – and the final was miles better than the Champions League snorefest that came a week later. Two Italians played a 0-0 draw to penalties.
Four years later, the UEFA Cup final came to Glasgow. Espanyol played Sevilla and I got to go. Supporting Sevilla of course! It wasn’t the same as our final, but it was a great occasion and one that helped me remember a lot of ours.
Hopefully one day I’ll see us in another final, and hopefully next time we’ll win 🙂