Celtic legend Jim Craig recalls vile provocation from Battle of Montevideo

He spoke to Newstalk's Team 33 about the Lisbon Lions era including bad tempered fixtures against Racing Club

BY Raf Diallo 15:48 Thursday 13 April 2017, 15:48 13 Apr 2017

Footage from the third Celtic vs Racing match

These days the FIFA World Club Cup is the competition which pits the UEFA Champions League winners against the Copa Libertadores champions and winners of the globe's other continental Champions Leagues.

More often than not, it ends up being a final between the European club and the South American one.

Between 1960 and 1980 however, the closest equivalent to the FIFA World Club Cup was the Intercontinental Cup (and Toyota Cup from 1980 to 2004) which was purely a Europe vs South America battle.

And back in 1967 after Celtic's Lisbon Lions won the old European Cup, their reward that year was to face Argentina's Racing Club across three fixtures in Hampden Park, Buenos Aires and then a playoff in Uruguay.

Both sides would win their home fixtures before Racing triumphed 1-0 in the playoff decider, which would infamously become known as the Battle of Montevideo.

For former Celtic defender Jim Craig, their encounters with the Argentinean club were spoiled by cynical fouling and gamesmanship.

That last playoff match ended up with Paraguayan referee Rodolfo Pérez Osorio dishing out six red cards (four for Celtic) in an acrimonious fixture.

Craig shared his memories with Newstalk's Team 33: "We should have done better in South America. We kind of blew our tops and a few players lost the plot in the third match.

"It was hard though because we played Racing Club at Hampden and by that time I had only been a pro for two years. But to be spat at, your jersey pulled, your foot trod on... I'd never experienced anything like that in my life.

"It's hard to take but they did it so well. If you spit in Scotland you spend 30 seconds working up to it but they would just turn their head and do it, and catch you in the cheek [with spit] and stuff like that. We found that really difficult.

"We won 1-0 at Hampden and went over to Buenos Aires and lost 2-1 there. It was worse over there. And when it went to the third game, ah it was just dreadful and didn't resemble football at all." 

One thing Craig found interesting was how Celtic were treated in the English press after the trouble against Racing Club compared to Manchester United's treatment in the same papers after they ended up in a similarly bad tempered set of fixtures against Estudiantes of Argentina in 1968.

"A few months later, when we played in the World Club Championship and had a bit of trouble against Racing Club, we ended up with four players sent off in one game. We got an absolute crucifixion in the English press," he said.

"But it was quite noticeable a year later when Man United had similar problems against Estudiantes in the same competition, it was the South Americans who were blamed for the trouble and the year before it was us who were blamed for it. There was always that edge to the English coverage."

You can listen to the full interview on the podcast player and on iTunes:

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