The bettors went by plane and train, but Didier Agathe’s journey to the 2003 UEFA Cup final began in the back of his car.
The path of the hero Hoops to face Porto was more winding than any road taken by the 85,000 supporters who invaded the south of Spain during this glorious week in May.
This incredible route, from Reunion in the Indian Ocean to France, England, Scotland and finally to Celtic, was in his mind when he walked towards a wall of green and white in the Estadio La Cartuja .
Agathe, thousands of miles away from his home, somehow managed to make the telephone line seem like a beaming smile when he said, “I felt lucky to be part of it.
“I came from nowhere. When I first came to this country, no one knew who I was. I sold all my things and drove to Calais. I tested and slept in my car before staying with a friend in Burnley.
“A few years later, I went out to Seville in front of thousands of supporters.
“It was something I was thinking about at the time. I believe in God and I really felt blessed at that time. You never know what life will bring you. It could have been anyone in that position that night, but it just happened to me and it was a wonderful moment. “
Agathe’s mind was stunned when he came out of the tunnel, but he knew all about the mass pilgrimage to the promised land. And he knew there was barely an airport or a train station in Europe where Hoops fans never passed.
He said: “We had heard that many fans were planning to participate in the match, but nothing prepared me for what happened. He hit the house at the press conference the day before.
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“I don’t know why Martin chose me to go to the media room because my English was not so good and when I opened the door, there were about 400 journalists there.
“I was more scared at the time than before kick-off! I met my friend who had traveled from France and he told me that there were so many Scottish people on the train that there was no longer a single seat.
“I remember going out there and thinking that I had never seen so many people in my life. It was a wall of green and white.
“It was for a football match. It just showed me the size of a Celtic club and how much the fans love the club. It took my breath away. It was so exciting, I was like a child. ”
The hopes and dreams of Celtic have been dashed by Porto de Mourinho. Yet even in the defeat, there was a sense of celebration in the success.
Martin O’Neill’s team beat Liverpool, Stuttgart and Celta Vigo to reach a European final for the first time since Jock Stein’s era.
The hordes saw their team clash with a Porto team that won the Champions League a year later. And when Henrik Larsson upgraded them twice, they enjoyed levels of ecstasy unparalleled for a generation. But it shouldn’t be.
Porto grabbed a winner in overtime and came home with a little help from some of the dark arts. There was grief – but also pride.
Agathe said, “At times, I thought we were going to do it. When Henrik came 2-2, we were full of conviction. It was so disappointing the way it ended and we were very depressed.
“You saw someone like Henrik get emotional, but I remember saying that we had to be proud of what we had accomplished to get to this point. I think the fans appreciated that we gave everything in this match.
“We didn’t win, but from that day on, each of us has been part of the Celtic family forever and even now, when I am back in Glasgow, people come to see me and talk about Seville. “
These Hoops players have become club legends – and lifelong friends.
Scottish football crisis
Agathe said: “We were friends as well as teammates and when you have a special manager like Martin who brings us all together, you can achieve great things.
“It was funny, we weren’t all Scottish but we could understand each other without speaking. We all spoke the same language on the ground.
“There were big stars on this team but there was no big ego. There were times when there may have been strong disagreements, but everyone was fighting for each other once on the ground. “