When teams line up to honour Scotland’s famous Lisbon Lions at a new schools football tournament this week, they will owe their gathering to one school, and to one coach in particular.
Just a few weeks ago, science teacher Paul Downie who runs the football team at Hyndland Secondary School was challenged by his young players to come up with more matches with the season drawing to a close.
Paul gave the matter serious consideration – and then hit on an idea, ambitious and unlikely he thought at the time, of writing to Celtic football club with what he thought was no more than a pipe dream.
But days later, the teacher received an email inviting him to Celtic Park to discuss and start organising a football tournament to mark the Lions’ famous achievement.
With planning now over, The Lisbon Lions Trophy, to honour the 50th Anniversary of Celtic becoming the first British club to win the European Cup, is about to kick off.
Paul said: “Having reintroduced football into the school in the past 18 months, the engagement and enthusiasm of our young people has been fantastic.
“Such was the hunger of our S1/S2 team for more games, they asked if it would be possible for me to arrange some further matches for the summer term.
“Knowing that the 50th anniversary of the Lisbon Lions famous triumph was approaching, I contacted Celtic Football Club with the idea of organising a schools based tournament to celebrate the legacy of Celtic becoming the first British club to win the European Cup.
“I never thought they would take me up on the offer – and that we would be in the position now with the teams ready to take part.”
The U14 school’s football tournament will take place at Toryglen Football Centre on Thursday (May 25) – the anniversary of Celtic’s greatest triumph.
The semi finals and final will be held at Celtic’s training ground at Lennoxtown in early June.
It will bring together 16 schools, and over 200 pupils from across the West of Scotland representing schools attended by Lisbon Lions and also the best performing schools from this year’s GSFA league and cup competitions.
Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell said: “We were delighted to embrace this proposal from Paul Downie and the Glasgow Schools Football Association.
“It is one which, in such a special year for the Club will provide another very fitting tribute to the Lions.
“These great players, all from in and around Glasgow reached the very pinnacle of their profession and they lifted the greatest prize of all – but they started somewhere and in their early years started their football at school.
“They are the example to so many aspiring young player.”
Glasgow Schools Football Association, who oversee schools football in Glasgow, welcomed the opportunity to help mark the greatest triumph of a Scottish team in Europe.
Their President George Mackie said: “The Glasgow Schools’ Football association are delighted to be involved in the commemoration of Celtic FC’s achievement of being the first British Club to win the European Cup in 1967.
“The GSFA was founded in 1904 and as such has had thousands of school pupils participate in organised football since then.
“Many will not realise that not only did past and present professional players take part in these competitions but many represented Glasgow and Scotland at the highest schoolboy, club and international level.”