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Time for more Hampden magic

UEFA Cup final: As a purveyor of nostalgia, Hampden Park's reputation is unsurpassed. A by-product of a west of Scotland upbringing is a thorough dunking in the mythology of the national stadium.

As a purveyor of nostalgia, Hampden Park's reputation is unsurpassed. A by-product of a west of Scotland upbringing is a thorough dunking in the mythology of the national stadium.

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The halcyon days when vast seas of bunneted men converged on the slopes of Mount Florida are still readily recalled by those of a certain vintage.

It seems every Glaswegian under the age of 40 has a father, an uncle or grandfather who witnessed the great Real Madrid side, inspired by Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano, destroy Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the 1960 European Cup final. It still ranks as the greatest match in Hampden's history and one of football's most famous games.

Just as the 2002 Champions League final helped Hampden's successful bid for this year's UEFA Cup final, UEFA were so pleased with the Scottish Football Association's handling of the 1960 final that they also awarded them the 1962 and 1966 Cup-Winners' Cup finals. Four years later, Leeds United's clash with Celtic in the 1970 European Cup semi-final second leg, in which Leeds levelled the tie at 1-1 before Celtic came back to win 3-1 on aggregate, provided another seminal moment.

Such sepia-tinted memories should be celebrated and cherished, but have a limited enjoyment value for those who were not around at the time. For those of a younger generation, Zinedine Zidane is our modern memory-maker. With one majestic sweep of his left boot, the Real Madrid midfielder gave us a moment to cherish; a moment to bore our nephews, nieces and grandkids with for the next 50 years (well, why should they get off lightly?).

Has there ever been a better goal scored at Hampden Park? Probably not. A recent vote decreed it as the best Champions League goal ever. And it happened on the south side of Glasgow. This century.

The legendary Frenchman's strike secured the Spanish club's victory over German side Bayer Leverkusen and capped another remarkable evening at Hampden. For a new generation, it has become their equivalent of the 1960 final.

Between times, 17-year-old Diego Maradona made his debut for Argentina on a warm June day in 1979 at Hampden. A mesmeric debut goal, past Scotland goalkeeper George Wood, was an early statement of his world-class talent. The aftermath of that match was the one and only time Maradona was pictured in a Scotland shirt (if only). Remarkably, Ronaldinho also enjoyed a Hampden benediction, pulling on a Brazil strip for the first time for the under-15 side on a March night in 1995. Incidentally, Scotland won 1-0 through a Jim Paterson goal.

Last October witnessed another stirring, momentous occasion when Scotland somehow overcame beaten World Cup finalists, France. Gary Caldwell's second-half strike deserves to go down in the history books alongside other classics, such as Kenny Dalglish's against Spain in 1984 and Joe Jordan's diving header against Czechoslovakia in 1973.

Hampden's renovation in the 1990s afforded it a five-star rating by UEFA, with top-class facilities on and off the park. Yet there is a general feeling it is still only the third-best stadium in Glasgow, behind Ibrox and Celtic Park. The latter, though, is still unable to host European finals because it does not have a five-star rating. Ibrox does qualify, and is arguably a grander arena in terms of its steep, sloping seats and potential for atmosphere.

However, Andy Mitchell, the SFA's head of communications, pointed out the compelling reasons in favour of Hampden. "It is up to the board of directors at the SFA which stadium they think would make the most suitable bid. Hampden is the national stadium. When you bring a European final to a stadium, you have to consider a whole range of facilities.

"I wouldn't want to denigrate the facilities at Ibrox, but we have to consider aspects such as the dressing rooms, which have to be identical. You also have to consider the media facilities, hospitality lounges. It's about much more than staging a game of football. Hosting a European final is an onerous task."

The SFA's achievement in attracting another European final should not be under-estimated. The success of 2002 is a large part of that, as the city as a whole embraced the arrival of Spanish and German fans and a carnival atmosphere prevailed.

"Hampden and the city of Glasgow drew enormous praise from UEFA after the 2002 final," added Mitchell. "That we have managed to get another European final just five years after says a lot about what UEFA think of Hampden."

Hampden's records Biggest attendance for a club match The Scottish Cup final of April 24th, 1937, drew an incredible crowd of 147,365, the biggest attendance for any club match in the world. When the gates were closed 15 minutes before kick-off, 20,000 were stranded outside. Celtic beat Aberdeen in the final, with Jimmy McGrory picking up his fourth winner's medal. Biggest attendance for an international match A week before the 1937 final, an official attendance of 149,415 was recorded for Scotland's clash with England. It is estimated that at least a further 20,000 got in illicitly. Scotland were 1-0 down at half-time, but came back in the second half, through goals from Frank O'Donnell and a Bob McPhail double, to win 3-1 Biggest attendance for a european match The second leg of Celtic's 1970 European Cup semi-final with Leeds United was moved from Parkhead to accomodate demand. There were 136,505 punters shoe-horned in. Billy Bremner levelled the tie on aggregate, but Celtic came back through John Hughes and Bobby Murdoch. Celtic lost to Feyenoord in the final.

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