Gothenburg – 40 Years On

Most clubs have all time famous XI.

At Manchester United it might be the Busby Babes many of whom perished at Munich.

At Torino it’s the The Grande Torino – the famous historic Italian football team of Torino Football Club. Five-time champions of Italy, the players were the backbone of the Italian national team and died on 4th May 1949 in the plane crash known as the Superga air disaster.

At Aberdeen, the Gothenburg XI of Wednesday 11th May 1983 continue to live long in the memory.

Three days after Gothenburg the team played Hibernian in a league encounter. 40 years on local fans celebrated that team at a Scottish Premiership game against the same team – Hibernian.

The team who defeated Real Madrid now have their names on a large polished granite plaque outside the main facade of the Pittodrie Stadium.


Rougvie, Miller, McLeish, McMaster

Strachan, Simpson, Cooper, Weir

Black, McGhee

Sub: John Hewitt.

There were no low blocks; no fancy tactical patterns of play; no transitions or silly formations or a mass round of substitutions.

This was 11 men plus one substitution, 3 coaches and a smiling physio plus 16,000 travelling fans.

Winning came against all the odds, against the greatest European team there has ever been – Los Blancos.

After the game Real Madrid’s greatest player and then coach Alfredo Di Stéfano conceded the better team had won in Gothenburg and commented that “Aberdeen have what money can’t buy; a soul, a team spirit built in a family tradition.”

The three key words of that comment are now written on one side of Pittodrie Stadium.

The host for 11.05.1983 had been the Nya Ullevi Stadium.

With its twin pillars and steel cables its rolling modernistic appearance lent poise and drama. The undulating roof and floodlights that watched down over proceedings provided an additional sense of theatre to proceedings.

It was here that the great Pelé made his first ever FIFA World Cup appearance in 1958.

That night in Gothenburg saw a watching audience of 17,804 but it might have been more but for the rain that fell from early afternoon onwards. Sizeable for the time the crowd was by some way so much less than the 100,000 that watched Barcelona win the trophy a year previously. But each and everyone who was there that night remembers what happened.

Aberdeen took the lead early in the first half via a goal by Eric Black just minutes after his acrobatic effort crashed had off the Real Madrid crossbar.

Innocence in the face of the masters they faced – there was no Francisco Gento or Ferenc Puskas – but this was still Real Madrid of the famous all white kit.

Madrid drew level following a penalty conceded by Jim Leighton, a foul that may well have seen the goalkeeper gain a Red card in the modern game. The penalty was stroked home by Juanito in the fifteenth minute after the treacherous weather saw the match ball stick in the waterlogged pitch.

Juanito is considered by many Real Madrid fans to represent the essence of what Real is about. A winner of the Trofeo Pichichi he is still remembered as an all-time great of the club.

At the end of normal time the match remained at 1–1 but Aberdeen were so much on top it was in injustice that an additional 30 minutes was still needed.

Some said afterwards ‘Aberdeen should have scored 10’.

The match went into extra time, two 15-minute periods of sheer intensity and drama and the added possibility of penalty kicks. In the end there was no need for the latter.

The winning goal was scored for Aberdeen by a local boy John Hewitt in the 112th minute after an intricate piece of play by Weir and McGhee.

All that was left was the dramatic final whistle of the Italian referee Gianfranco Menegali from Rome – and 12 Scottish men were crowned as winners. Another legendary Italian the UEFA President Artemio Franchi would present Aberdeen skipper Willie Miller with the trophy.

Playing shirts were sodden, and the fans soaked to the skin.

Heroes from the north east had been created.

Aberdeen had won the final 2–1 and a first European trophy.