By: Hibernian Media on 24 May, 2018 16:00
To celebrate Hibernian’s qualification for the UEFA Europa League, this week we will be publishing some historical content looking back on matches in European competition.
In the Hibernian FC Programme during the 2017/18 season, John Hislop, James Delaney and John Stephens all looked at different matches the Club have competed in during their continental campaigns in the feature ‘We’ve Played There’.
Today, we’re looking at one of the most incredible encounters in Hibernian’s history against Napoli in 1967.
29 November 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of arguably the greatest European night in the history of Hibernian Football Club.
In 1967 Scottish Football was on a high. The national team were dubbed ‘unofficial’ world champions after beating England 3-2 at Wembley Stadium, Celtic were European Champions after beating Inter Milan whilst Rangers were runners up to Bayern Munich in the European Cup Winners Cup.
That year, Hibernian qualified for the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, a prestigious tournament designed to promote international trade fairs.
After defeating a strong Porto side 4-3 on aggregate in the first round, Hibernian were drawn against Italian giants Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli, who at the time were domestic league leaders with several world class players in their ranks.
The legendry World Cup winner Dino Zoff who would go on to play 608 top flight matches in Italy and win 112 caps for his country was in goals.
In attack, Jose Altafini, a world class striker who represented Brazil in the 1958 World Cup, then Italy in the 1962 World Cup, played alongside fellow countryman Jarbas Faustinho, commonly known as Cané, who scored 49 in 166 games for the club.
Also in the team was Omar Sívori and hometown midfielder Antonio Juliano who would eventually break the appearance record which still stands today – an impressive 394 for Napoli.
Home games were played at the Stadio San Paolo which was built to provide Napoli with a permanent home after their old home Stadio Partenopeo had been destroyed in the Second World War by air raids.
The stadium was officially opened on the 6th of December 1959. It was initially completely uncovered and held 87,500 spectators, mostly standing.
The first leg was played on Wednesday 22 November 1967 and Naples took the lead in the 20th minute from a free kick by Cané who added a second five minutes after the break.
Altafini made it 3-0 midway through the second half but ten minutes from full time, Hibernian were thrown a lifeline when Colin Stein scored a vital away goal.
With three minutes remaining Cané completed his hat-trick and the Italian fans celebrated as if the tie was over.
To add insult to injury however when Hibernian were in Italy, sterling was devalued by 14% and they were unable to pay their hotel bill!
Despite losing 4-1, Hibernian had been far from outclassed and had been the better side for large parts of the opening period.
Although the result had flattered Napoli, Hibernian were given no chance of overturning the scoreline in Edinburgh. The lone dissenting voice however was that of manager Bob Shankly who was convinced that not only would Hibernian win the return leg but that they would go through to the next round and he said so at the post-match press conference much to the amusement of the Italian press.
Just before the second leg, Hibernian received a gigantic boost with the news that Altafini would not be travelling to Edinburgh. Having picked up a small injury the previous weekend, the Brazilian superstar could have played but because of what was thought to be an unassailable lead, Napoli decided not to risk the veteran player.
It was a decision that they would live to regret.
Recently inducted Scottish Football Hall of Fame member Allan McGraw who played in both ties recalled: “Against Naples in Italy the heat was unbelievable. Before the game we were all given a bunch of flowers by our opponents. None of us knew what to do with them so someone told us to throw them to the crowd but there was a moat round the pitch so they all ended up in the water.
“They beat us 4-1 but the score flattered them. The only difference between the teams was their striker Altafini who had unbelievable speed.
“Naples presented us with silver musical cigarette boxes afterwards and I still have mine.
“Bob (Shankly) told the press that the tie wasn’t over but no-one believed him although when we found out they had left Altafini at home we were confident of progressing and we did, winning 5-0.
Bobby Duncan, who opened the scoring at Easter Road that historic night remembered the trip to Italy for different reasons. He recalled: “There is a song about the ‘back streets of Naples’, well Pat Stanton Jimmy O’Rourke and I went for a walk through them. It was a really poor place with outdoor fires in the streets.
“I remember there were loads of kids who wanted our autographs but as we were signing them, a wee guy stole my wallet and did a runner. Luckily there was not much in it!
“Naples had a world class Brazilian called Altafini who was outstanding against us that night but thankfully he didn’t travel to Edinburgh for the second leg. I don’t think he fancied a cold November night at Easter Road.”
Hibernian ended up running out 5-0 winners against Napoli, in a performance that is still heralded by the supporters today.
Zoff was beaten all ends up by a fantastic drive from distance by Duncan, with further goals by Pat Quinn and Peter Cormack making it 3-0 on the night – 4-4 on aggregate – but the side were not done yet.
Pat Stanton headed in to make it 4-0, with Colin Stein adding a fifth to rub salt in the wounds of an overly-confident Napoli side under the Easter Road floodlights.
After winning the tie, Hibernian were drawn against Leeds United but lost 2-1 on aggregate following a controversial decision by Welsh referee Clive Thomas in the second leg at Easter Road.
At the end of that season, Hibernian finished in third position whilst Napoli came very close to winning the league finishing just behind Milan in second place.
Hibernian fans would eventually get to see the great Altafini in action when he came on as a second half substitute for Juventus seven years later and helped the Italians to a 4-2 victory on the night.
As featured in Issue 11 of the Hibernian FC Programme on Saturday 18 November 2017 for the match against St Johnstone. Written by John Hislop.