The Greatest Game Ever Played

There are very few things stronger than the love affair between the Scots and the beautiful game. Scotland  has brought football to the world since the nineteenth century, the nation’s rich history in the world’s number one sport is a talking point from every corner of the country. One piece from Scotland’s rich past discussed not just within Caledonia but all over the globe, is the European Cup final of 1960 at Hampden Park.

It was a match that brought the European Cup to the world. A match dubbed the greatest in the sports history by the leading governing bodies and spectators. A match Hampden is incredibly proud to have played the role as host.

The National Stadium would host her first of six European finals on 18th May 1960. This was a highly anticipated match weeks beforehand in the city, the up and rising Eintracht Frankfurt against the great Real Madrid. This was already a mouthwatering tie from the moment the final two teams were confirmed. Frankfurt cast aside a very strong Rangers team 12-4 over two legs in the semi finals, while questions were being asked of a Real Madrid side that was aging; if they were able to dazzle Europe once again. Di Stefano, the fittest 34 year old in the game, Puskas, the Galloping Major, and Gento, whose speed has rarely been surpassed by any other winger. Yes, the forwards were the envy of the whole football world, yet behind one of the finest group of forwards ever assembled by any club there was a firm, dependable defense. It was organised round that most formidable centre-half Santamaria and Dominquez, the Argentine international goalkeeper.

Eintracht settled to prepare for arguably the most difficult task ever set by any team in a major final. Although they had shown strength and intelligence against Rangers, those qualities fell short of genius; they had not a current German international in their squad.

There were 127,621 present that night; they had paid £55,000 for admission, at the time a record for any football match in Great Britain. Scottish referee Jack Mowat blew the whistle and kick off was underway. What would entail next would be one of the most wonderful football spectacles the game has ever seen.

Eintracht, despite the underdog tag, would cause Madrid problems,  Meier’s swinging shot hit Dominquez’s bar. Kress and Pfaff were exciting the crowd down Real’s left flank, Stein also showing the same form that had devastated Rangers in the semi-final. It was clear Real were not going to have it all their own way so soon.

Dominguez collects the ball.

In the 20th minute, Eintracht finally took some dividends from their pressure on the left with a goal, Stein racing down the left and cutting the ball back to Kress leaping clear from Santamaria to sweep the ball into the net.

At last Real’s ugency noticeably increased. The beast had finally been awakened. The equaliser six minutes later was a typical Real goal of simplicity and precision. Canarrio beat Hoefer on the right as if he were not there. His low cross eluded the defence but found Di Stefano, whom struck past Loy with the cold stroke of a master. Just three minutes later the faultless positioning and alertness of Di Stefano were made clear again when Canario’s swerving shot spun from the driving body of the keeper. The forward stepped forth a couple of yards to hook over the Eintracht keeper before anyone else had moved. And so Real led.

Di Stefano was patrolling the centre of the field. Dictating from box to box to the continuing frustration of Eintracht,  strutting the field arrogantly knowing he was in full control. Then one minute from the interval the great Puskas with his strutting little strides broke into the scene. He took a pass from the fluent feet of Del Sol, jockeyed for a position near the by-line, and then, from a ridiculous narrow angle, struck the ball so hard to the roof of Loy’s net. Only Puskas could do such things. 3-1 at half time.

The half time wait had the Hampden attendees excited for another forty five minutes similar to the first. And they were granted their wish. Luiz of Eintracht was having a torrid time trying to handle the twinkle toed Gento, his race to the ball on the 54th minute led to Mowat to award a penalty to Real. Puskas stepped up and scored. 4-1 to Los Blancos. In another six minutes it was five. Gento again troubling Luiz, gone from the defender’s vision in a flash, hitting a cross in the box for Puskas to head home.

 

 

 

 

 

Puskas scoring his third goal in the final.

Again in the 70th minute, the mastery of Puskas brought roars to acclaim. He reached back for a pass that was that was straying away from him, killed the ball and pivoting with speed, shot high into the net from 16 yards with his left foot.

Within two minutes, Stein scored a second for Eintracht, although a comeback did not look possible. The goal was a welcoming reward for the commendable efforts of the Germans. Shortly after, the difference in class between the teams was once more confirmed. Di Stefano demanding the ball deep in his own defence, then in a straight run for the the middle of the other goal he dtrung together at stirring speed a cluster of passes, sending defenders sprawling on various directions before striking a fierce shot outside the box to make the score 7-2.

Fifteen minutes from the end would then see Vidal miss-place a pass to his keeper, allowing Stein to latch onto the loose ball and round Dominquez . There was no more goals every minute as football ecstasy.

The lucky 127,621 witnessed world class quality from the word go. Hampden Park glowed in the brilliance of the all white Madrid. The crowd could not stop applauding after full time, the Real players were astounded by the volume of appreciation around the Hampden bowl, to which they conducted the famously photo-shot lap of honour around the ground. Legend has it, this lap of honour was the first of its kind, leading to numerous laps from then to the present day. Once again, Scotland adding more  to the game.

 

 

 

 

 

Real Madrid partake I the lap of honour with the European Cup around Hampden.

The Spanish club had indeed monopolised the trophy since the beginning of the competition and victory at Hampden would be their fifth consecutive European Cup trophy. With a past so rich as that of Real, this was indeed a tribute to their performance.

Though it is not a matter of statistics that enthralled the crowd. It was the sight of players who could do anything, everything and seemed determined to cram this into ninety minutes. The names are burned onto the minds of anyone who was there, anyone who claims they were there and those who admit they merely watched film of the match.

The next day Real returned to their homeland but not without incident. At Prestwick Airport their plane was delayed for four hours. It was almost as if Scotland did not want them to go.

Real Madrid: Dominquez, Martiquos, Santamaria, Pachin, Vidal, Zarraga, Canario, Del Sol, Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento.

Eintracht Franfurt: Loy, Lutz, Hofer, Weibacher, Eigenbrodt, Stinka, Kress, Lindner, Stein, Pfaff, Meier.

Puskas’ plaque based in our museum commemorating his career and the famous European Cup final.