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Football and the First World War

I am currently writing a book on Football and the First World War based on the article of the same name on this website.

I am very keen to contact any football fans who have information about players who joined the army during the First World War.

Please contact me at


See reviews of Rob Cavallini's The Wanderers FC, and Around The World In 95 Games.


The Lisbon Lions


1967 was Celtic's best ever year. The club won every domestic competition they entered: the Scottish League, the Scottish Cup, the Scottish League Cup, the Glasgow Cup.  On 25 May, they faced their greatest challenge: Inter Milan in the European Cup Final at the Estadio Nacional, Lisbon.

According to the Celtic players, manager Jock Stein's instructions ahead of the game were simple: go out enjoy yourself.  This seemed an unlikely possibility when, in the eighth minute of the game Jim Craig felled Cappellini in the penalty box and Mazolla scored from the spot. 

Stein pressed for his players to attack and lay siege to the Italian goalmouth.  Milan retreated to to their famous defensive pattern and for the rest of the game it was Celtic's attack against the formidable Italian defence.  With Sarti performing heroics in goal, and Auld and Gremmell both hitting the bar, the Italians were lucky to retain their lead at halftime. 

Twenty minutes into the second half  Jim Craig cut the ball back across field for the advancing Tommy Gemmell to take it in his stride and hammer it past Sarti from 25 yards.

Six minutes from time, Gemmell moved up again on the left and squared the ball to Murdock, who drove the ball low into the crowded penalty area.  As Sarti moved to cover it, Steve Chalmers deflected it past him for the winner.

It was Celtic's 200th goal of the season, in 64 games, and ensured that they had won everything they had entered.  The celebrations began immediately and although the Portuguese police feared the crowd would get out of control, there was no hooliganism.

But the chaos inside the stadium meant that the Celtic players could not be presented with the trophy on the pitch. Instead club captain Billy McNeill had to be ushered round the outside of the stadium under armed escort. He then climbed the stairs to the presentation podium where he finally held the trophy aloft to enormous cheers from the crowd.

According to the Guardian: ‘Celtic are the new champions and worthy ones at that, having beaten Inter Milan 2-1 in the final after a remarkable match; by sheer determination when all seemed stacked against them, when frustration and defeat stared them straight in the eye. There is no individual hero. Every man gave his all. No other British club has ever reached the final, let alone won Europe's most coveted prize. And as the shadows lengthened just five minutes away from extra time Celtic scored the winning goal. It seemed the final minutes would never pass for their 7,000 supporters, who had travelled so far and so hopefully.' 

The Daily Telegraph declared it was 'a triumph for attacking football over the ultra-defencive Italian style that has been threatening to suffocate the game on the Continent'.