(Celtic’s First “European Cup” Win?)
Celtic’s first “European Cup” win? No, it’s not the Lisbon story again – though, for those of a certain vintage, that’s a story that doesn’t lose any of its appeal in the re-telling.
Celtic very early embraced the challenge of spreading the football gospel; and by the turn of the twentieth century, they had begun to undertake a series of tours to football outposts in far-flung corners of Europe.
On an expedition to Hungary in 1914, local Budapest club, Ferencvarosi Torna, took it upon themselves to arrange a charity challenge between Celtic and Burnley, who just happened to be in the area at the same time. A bit cheeky – but they did put up an elegant trophy for the winners and the unofficial international event duly went ahead.
It turned out to be an ill-tempered affair, ending in a draw. As Celtic were returning home the next day, a local replay was not possible and in the ensuing mayhem, the trophy was withheld as neither team was prepared to play extra time. In a curious compromise, a play-off was arranged for back in Britain, home advantage going to Burnley on the toss of a coin. Part of the gate money from the replay was to be forwarded to the Hungarian charity fund.
In due course, the second leg took place, with Celtic winning 2-0. The agreed charity contribution was forwarded to the organisers but the trophy never materialised, despite several requests. Apparently, it subsequently came to light that it got re-cycled for another fund-raising venture during the First World War – an early example of commercial opportunism.
Fortunately, there was a happy ending to this strange story, seventy-odd years down the line. With Celtic’s Centenary looming in 1988, the latter-day Ferencvaros officials decided the time had come to set the record straight and properly mark a historic victory that had never received due recognition.
So it was that a Hungarian delegation attended the Centenary Championship-clinching match against Dundee United at Celtic Park to present a magnificent replacement trophy, which has since become a proud exhibit within the Celtic Collection. The ornate Ferencvaros Vase is draped with a plaque bearing the inscription:
“Presented by Ferencvaros Budapest to Celtic Football Club in their Centenary Year to mark their first ‘European Cup’ victory in 1914. Results for the cup were: Celtic v Burnley, draw in Budapest / Burnley v Celtic, 0-2 in Burnley.”
7th May, 1988