21 May


Seville: the ancient Roman City originally called Hispalis. The Capital of Andalucía in Southern Spain.

Seville: a municipal population of about 703,000 as of 2011, and metropolitan population of about 1.5 million, making it the fourth-largest city in Spain and the 30th most populous municipality in the European Union. Its Old Town, the third largest in Europe with an area of 4 km², contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.

Seville: known as Ishbiliya after the Muslim conquest in 712.

Seville: One of the economic centres of the Spanish Empire, after the discovery of the Americas, as its port monopolised the trans-oceanic trade and the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) wielded its power, opening a Golden Age of arts and literature.

Seville: From where Ferdinand Magellan departed in 1519 for the first circumnavigation of the Earth.

Seville: A city which saw the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, and many glories, triumphs and tragedies in its 2,200 year History.

Seville: Invaded and populated by the Romans, The Phoenicians, The Moors, and The Castilians.

Seville: a town with all that history, all that culture, all those tales to tell and all those influences but where just one word is guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of any local:


Any discussion about modern European Football and cup competition will eventually throw up the link between the Andalusian capital and the team founded by a Marist brother from the east end of Glasgow.

What makes the link between the two all the more remarkable is that the connection was made over only a few days in May 2003 which culminated in the Glasgow club coming to Spain and losing a football match. The Victors on the day were F.C. Porto who, under the guidance of an audacious young manager called Jose Mourinho, would go on to lift the big Prize of the Champions League Cup the following year.

It was a Golden period for Porto, yet it was the losing side who would stamp their name, if not in the history books, then in the annals of endless folklore, because in truth there was no real story in Seville were it not for the Glaswegians.

As a result of those few days in Spain, the major players in the sport, the European and World bodies who govern the game, would depart from all previous convention and practice by honouring, commending and, to be frank, standing in awe of the football fan—or to be more precise—The Celtic Fan!

They say there were 80,000 there.

They say it is or was the biggest travelling support in the history of Sport.

It remains the biggest travelling support to trek across Europe to support a football team.

CNN reported that on the day before the game 3% of the earth’s flying population were all headed for Seville and were sporting  a Celtic scarf.

They say that the Celtic support was worth 600 Million Euros to the Spanish economy—they didn’t count the money spent by the thousands of us who crossed the border from Portugal to support the hoops—the Portuguese just got a wee spin off.

There are literally thousands of stories surrounding the trips to and from the Spanish City.

Long lost friends who somehow bumped into one another after years apart: People who turned up on the spur of the moment yet who managed to find friends and family among the mayhem—like homing pigeons who somehow mysteriously know their way home.

People who missed flights, arrived by car, left their desks at the last moment, lied to their bosses about where they were going, met a girlfriend or boyfriend to be at the airport, had a ticket, didn’t have a ticket and couldn’t care less!

Seville was a town where football came to learn the value of “The Green Pound” and as a result many a civic authority would take an interest in an approaching UEFA draw in the hope that the word “Celtic” would be matched with their local heroes.

However, the most important thing about Seville in my eyes is that Seville is the town where Glasgow Celtic Football Club rediscovered itself, its value and its wonder.

Blessed with a team that could hold its own in any competition, Celtic would come to the heat of Seville and face a team that were to be the Kings of Europe within the twelve month.

Twice they would fall behind, and twice they would fight back through the talismanic head of the King of Kings, The sporting hero of Sweden, the once dreadlocked and now balding Rastafarian Larsson.

Whilst Deco and Derlei of Porto would rightly be praised for lovely football in the course of the final- though their memory may be tarnished by play acting and gamesmanship- any examination of the 2003 UEFA cup final shows that the Swedish born son of a Cape Verde Father was in a class of his own in his chosen position.

Over and above showing a determination to play and win which was draining just to watch, Larsson would score a goal which should be the object of study by anyone with serious ambitions to play professional football in the striker position.

As Didier Agathe crossed a high loping ball towards the Porto back post, a study of Larsson’s movement and guile shows the perfect striker’s motion and execution of a football move.

The manipulation and manoeuvring of the defender, the seemingly impossible leap and never ending hang in the air, is only bettered by the vision and ability which enabled him to head the ball back across the goal and into the net via the inside of the far post.

In essence, Larsson defeated two central defenders, a fullback and a goalkeeper by using one elongated twisting leaping motion which culminated in his placing the ball into the one exact spot where it could not be saved.

In sheer striking terms it was perfect—with no one in the world being able to say that they would have executed that piece of football any better. This was the King of Kings scoring the goal of goals.

However, despite Larsson’s heroics, the team from Glasgow would lose the match.

Yet, the club from Glasgow would win everything – everything from respect, to admiration, to awe and wonder—from the city, UEFA, FIFA, Governments, Porto, broadcasters, airlines and anyone else.

If Football and Europe had needed reminding just what Celtic Football Club bring to any major event then Seville was it. Equally, for different generations of Celtic fan, Seville afforded them the opportunity to see, be part of, and feel the experience of the Celtic support acting on instinct, en masse and with one purpose—to support—with a smile and a song.

Recently, after the defeat of Barcelona at Celtic park, one Spanish magazine described what they saw as “ The Greatest Home advantage” in European Football— in an attempt to describe the atmosphere at Celtic park.

Those few days in Seville saw the Celtic support conquer a European city whilst at all times remaining guests, visitors, customers, party goers and most of all Celtic fans. They brought that atmosphere and spirit from Kerrydale Street and unleashed it on the unsuspecting and bemused Andalusian  They came, they saw, they sang, they drank, they spent, they laughed and they conquered—with sheer weight of numbers, spirit and the Celtic personality.

This was a festival, a carnival, a party, an audience, a crowd, a family and a club all rolled into one.

There were no strangers, just members of a family that you had not yet met and who were all there with the one purpose, one goal, one intent and one vision—and that was to be part of Celtic Football Club.

Yes, the players took to the field and the management managed from the sidelines, but the spirit of Celtic stood in the stands, the fan zones, the pubs, the parks, the airports, the hotels, the bus stations, train stations, petrol stations—everywhere—but the Police stations.

Celtic—a name that was meant to be all inclusive from the beginning, which said that everyone and anybody was welcome, and which has meant and always will mean that those who follow this club are not and never will consider themselves THE people but A people—a body of support—a brotherhood or family or a club in which we are all members.

As each member of that family rolled into town by whatever means, the cumulative glow and presence increased with powerful effect. If Smiling and singing were a currency then this Green and White brigade were the richest of the rich—so rich that media moguls and TV crews from all over the world could not ignore the remarkable gathering—and all for a football team who had not as yet kicked a football.

I often think of Seville and want to shout:

“ See! – See what we can do when we all act together?—as one body, as one support, as one club, as one movement, as one spirit?”

I am not sure that the “Celtic” effect is truly understood or realised by those involved with the “business” of football or even the “Business” of Celtic Football Club or PLC.

There is little that the Celtic support cannot achieve when acting as one. Whether it be raising money for charity, being the twelfth man in a stadium, being an economic force to be reckoned with, or just being the world’s biggest infectious party— all of which was shown in Seville.

For me, Seville is not a city or a town—it is a feeling—an emotion—an experience—when I for one felt as if I was a king of kings!

Many will wonder will it ever happen again?

I genuinely don’t know.

I only know—that if there is going to be a show—then the Glasgow Celtic will be there!


2 Responses to “SEVILLE!”

  1. dan063 May 21, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Strandsky, top class as always. Great shared memories.

    Totally agree with you, I don’t think the current custodians realise the true potential of the club. If we had more progressive folk to run Celtic with a bit more insight and true connection to the fans knows what heights we could achieve together.

  2. zoyler May 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Wonderful article which sums up exactly what it was like – one caveat – are the locals not Andalucian rather then Catalan? I don’t think that Catalans like being called Spanish!

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