Zinedine Zidane And My 18th Birthday

The date – 15th of May 2002 

Destination – Glasgow 

I woke up on the fifteenth of May in 2002 and I was beyond excited.

Not only was my home city of Glasgow hosting that day’s Champions League final between Spanish giants Real Madrid and German cracks Bayer Leverkusen but it was also my eighteenth birthday.

My friend Fraser and I had decided earlier on in the week, that even though we didn’t have match tickets, we were going to spend the day in the city centre revelling in the atmosphere that would soon engulf the dear green place.

So we got the train into town for about eleven in the morning. Central Station was already full of supporters clinging onto their scarves, bashing drums or chanting their favourite football hymns.

It was decided upon that we had to line our stomachs early and so we headed to TGI Friday’s. That meant I could also meet my mum (who would pay for lunch). She worked in House of Fraser and had said that the town was busy from early in the morning. As well as lunch, my mum also gave me some birthday money and had managed to procure a couple of Amstel novelty Champions League hats.

Fraser and myself were delighted and as we stepped out onto a sunny Buchanan Street we adorned our new headwear and like any two sensible young men, that were now of legal age, we decided it was only right to celebrate my birthday and the occasion with a beer at the welcoming hostelry.

Like any enthusiastic young men of drinking age, it was decided that we had to sample various atmospheres and thus headed to Lauders Bar up at Sauchiehall Street. Now Lauders was an old man’s pub; it had wooden flooring, shiny well polished wooden tables and a bar well stocked of whisky, vodka and more whisky.

But even this old fashioned dwelling complete with rigid and battered regulars had tables with Spanish fans singing ‘Ole, Ole. Ole, Ole‘. With foreign football fans trying to encourage the natives to join in.

After a few pints in Sauchiehall Street, we headed for The Bier Halle in Gordon Street. On our way back down the road we passed a tapas bar and it was absolutely jumping, with a Spanish band playing live music on the street and Real Madrid flags hanging out the windows.

The Bier Halle is an intimate bar that’s down in the basement. Instead of a food menu, it has a menu for all beers that it sells from around the world. This was a hub for the German supporters, with Leverkusen fans flooding the bar area.

As teens, Fraser and myself were used to pints of Tennents or bottles of Miller or Budweiser. Yet we mixed it up a bit in the Bier Halle; trying German, Belgian and even Japanese lagers. We spotted that there was a Playstation in the pub and it was currently unoccupied. We sauntered over and decided to have a game of PES with Fraser going Bayer Leverkusen and I’d be Real Madrid.

We soon realised that our game had garnered an audience as Fraser’s Leverkusen side had a chance hit the post which was met with collective ‘Aaahhh’. It was soon evident that the crowd was supporting one of us and it wasn’t me, they wanted to see a Leverkusen triumph. I duly cracked under the pressure and without showing me any mercy on my birthday, Fraser would win with a 3-1 scoreline. The German contingent in the bar cheered and hoped it would be the first victory for their side on Glasgow soil that day.

We then headed back up to street level and decided to venture east into the Merchant City. We would pop into a few more bars and had the obligatory pints. By this time, support for Madrid had dwarfed that of Leverkusen and the Spanish were here to have a party. Songs were blaring out of every drinking hole, the dancing had started and all the time they were keen to engage with the Glaswegians.

For a city often divided by football rivalry, it was on this one occasion that no one cared about Rangers or Celtic and everyone wanted to bond over football no matter your allegiance.

W then met up with my cousin Douglas and another friend Scott. We would head up to George Square (via a few more pubs) to see what the fan park was like. 

I was a bit tipsy by this point and then my old Nokia started to buzz. It was my dad to remind Douglas and myself that we had a birthday dinner to get to at my grans for 7pm. 

It was decided we’d head back to the Bier Halle for one more drink before heading to the train station. We may have had two more drinks, Douglas and Scott were the brains of the outfit as they were drinking soft drinks, which meant they could usher us out to get to the train on time. 

Back in Central Station, Fraser stopped off at the Newsagents to get a bottle of water as we boarded the Newton train to Croftfoot. That was the same line to Mount Florida/king’s Park meaning it was the train for Hampden and full of football fans. 

My bashed Nokia starts to go again and it’s Fraser:

‘Where are you?’

We’re on the train, first carriage’

So am I and I can’t see you guys!’ 

You got on the first train right?’ 


Like the front train to leave the station, not the rear train that’s the first you come to on the platform?’


Thankfully with seconds to spare, Fraser boarded the right train just before it departed. 

I was very fuzzy by this point. The ride home is a bit of a blur between a boozy smell and lot’s of chanting. 

Finally we arrived at Croftfoot station and Douglas and I departed to head down King’s Park Avenue to our grandparents. 

My dad says that I swaggered and swayed down the road, with the Amstel hat covering much of my face. 

The dinner was eaten in a haze and I half consciously sat on the couch to watch the Champions League cup final. 

To be honest, the excitement of the day and well the alcohol had caught up with me and the first two goals of the game passed me by. I even managed to nap for about ten minutes. 

As I awoke, I again half concentrated on the game. 

Enter the maestro, Zinedine Zidane. 

The ball finds itself on the left-wing just beside the Leverkusen penalty area. 

Obviously Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos is Real Madrid’s attacking threat on that side and he’s charged forward. The man with tree trunk like thighs lobs the ball what seems miles into the area and it comes back toward Zizou, who’s waiting at the edge of the box.

The Frenchman eyes the ball like an eagle eyeing up its prey as it makes it’s way down from the Torygeln heavens!

With the ball still quite high in the air, Zidane amazingly sets himself up to hit the thing on the volley.

I drunkly push myself up off the grey leather couch ‘Surely he can’t hit this?!”

The night seems to slow right down as the Adidas ball drops into striking range of Zinedine’s majestic left boot. Zidane is almost standing diagonally as he first stretches his left leg round before expertly timing his shot.

Boom! It was perfect!

Almost as soon as it had left his foot it was beyond the Leverkusen goalkeeper and into the roof of the net!

It was the best bit of football artistry I’ve seen as it happened. It deserved to be dawning the walls of The Louvre in Paris. 

It was so spiritual, I kid you not, it actually 100% sobered me up. The mix of adrenaline, excitement and happiness just seemed to beat any effects that the beers had on my system. 

It was a moment that has stayed with me forever and ensured I’d never forget my eighteenth birthday. 

Dedicated to my family and friends.


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