This morning I woke up to see on social media that it was 18 years since we were all in Seville enjoying the sunshine as the beer flowed and the songs were sang loudly as over 100,000 Celtic Fans were welcomed to the city for the UEFA Cup Final by the locals as the international football community looked on with mouths wide open as we turned the Spanish City and surrounding holiday resorts in Spain and over the border in Portugal Green and White.
While back in Glasgow, pubs were filled with Sombrero wearing fans, while sand and deckchairs were a common sight outside pubs in the East end of Glasgow to create an atmosphere to set the scene for those who were unable to travel. Tickets were at a premium and touts were taking advantage of desperate Celtic fans.
Celtic fans travelled by cars, vans, buses and planes from all corners of the globe to be there, tens of thousands without tickets. Some fans even cycled the whole way from Glasgow
There was a friendly atmosphere throughout the week and UEFA and FIFA even gave us an award for creating a football fan festival where the Police were on lookers and the local economy got an incredible boost.
I was lucky I got a ticket through our supporters club and I remember going into the stadium early that evening to take it all in. We went through every emotion that night as happiness turned to sadness as we left the ground. The bus back to the Costa Del Sol where I was staying was very quiet as exhausted Celtic fans slept and reflected on what might have been on another night as Moreno’s Porto team cheated their way to the trophy with play acting worthy of a few nominations for the Oscars.
Years later I asked Martin O’Neill at a Questions and Answers in Drogheda about that night and that journey he took us on. He had one or two glasses of wine and he let rip into Moreno about him and his teams antics.
I bumped into Martin again at the Aviva Stadium one night after a friendly between Ireland and Holland, I think it was the last game before we headed for a few weeks to France for the Euros and I thanked him for qualifying us for the tournament, he asked me “Was I going to France”, I replied “Yes, I hope its as good as journey you took us on to Seville” He looked at me and said were you there, I replied “Yes” to which he shook his head, smiled and said “ Celtic, Special Fans”.
On the night Ireland beat Italy in Lille on another hot night like Seville after a day of sunshine and beer, I met Home and Away Celtic fan, Gerry Brady leaving the stadium just like I had done in Seville only this time we were celebrating, I was staying on and heading to Lyon, for the France game but Gerry was climbing on a bus and heading back to Glasgow straight after the game like so many did after that defeat in Seville.
We won nothing in Seville only the hearts of the Spanish people but it was an unbelievable journey that started in Balse the night we failed to qualify for the Champions League and we sulked as we waited for the UEFA Cup draw. Nobody knew the journey we would go on but the road to Seville will live long in our memories. Like so many I have never watched that game again and I have been lucky enough to interview a number of the Celtic players who who took us on that journey.
Andrew Milne started More than 90 Minutes in 2001. He has written for numerous publications and online about Celtic. He is a former newspaper columnist with the Daily Ireland and the man behind celticfanzine.com. He is host of the Celtic Soul Podcast & Celtic AM pre-match events at Malone’s in Glasgow on match days and follows Celtic Home & Away. He is a season ticket holder for Celtic FC and the Republic of Ireland. He is also P.R.O. of St. Margaret’s CSC, a member of the Celtic Trust and the Celtic Graves Association.
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