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Celtic hero Stevie Chalmers beat killer illness on way to becoming legend

 

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic hero Stevie Chalmers was given three weeks to live years before scoring the winning goal in the European Cup final, a BBC documentary has revealed.

Chalmers was 20 when he contracted tuberculosis meningitis and was given no chance of survival.

But 12 years later the forward, who is now aged 81, scored Celtic's second goal in their 2-1 win over Inter Milan in Lisbon as Jock Stein's team became the first British side to win Europe's elite trophy.

Chalmers' story is told alongside those of his team-mates in 'Glasgow 1967: The Lisbon Lions', which will be screened to mark the 50th anniversary of Celtic's greatest triumph next week.

The Glaswegian was diagnosed in 1955 when he was a budding footballer with Kirkintilloch Rob Roy.

Dr Dermot Kennedy told the programme: "Tuberculosis meningitis was the deadliest disease in Glasgow ever, 100 per cent fatality at that time. It was a terrible disease."

As fellow patients died around him in hospital, Chalmers was given pioneering treatment by Dr Peter McKenzie.

"It was a miracle cure," Dr Kennedy said. "It was not believed that people could survive tuberculosis meningitis and Stevie Chalmers was one of the very first in Scotland."

Natalie Chalmers, a granddaughter of the Lisbon Lion, said: "I suppose getting tuberculosis and realising he was actually near death was what spurred him on to be the footballer he was, and the passion he has shows that."

Chalmers joined Celtic in 1959 and his late goal in Lisbon on May 25, 1967, remains the most famous in the club's history.

The BBC documentary features interviews with the likes of Jim Craig, Bertie Auld, John Clark, Bobby Lennox and Willie Wallace, as well as family members of other Lions, and supporters who made the 2,000-mile trip to Portugal.

The hour-long programme, which weaves the social history of Glasgow into the sporting story, will be shown on BBC One Scotland at 9pm next Wednesday and at 11.15pm on BBC One elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Leigh Griffiths has "apologised sincerely" for his substitution strop at Firhill on Thursday night, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers revealed.

The Hoops striker was far from happy with his gaffer when replaced by Scott Sinclair just after the hour mark in the 5-0 Ladbrokes Premiership win over Partick Thistle, having opened the scoring with a first-half penalty.

Ulsterman Rodgers empathised with Griffiths' frustration and stressed that he has a massive part to play at the Parkhead club while reminding him that he will not tolerate any dressing room upset.

Rodgers and his skipper Scott Brown were yesterday presented with their respective Ladbrokes Premiership manager and player of the year awards at the club's Lennoxtown training complex.

Rodgers said: "He apologised sincerely for his reaction."

The champions will be presented with the league trophy against Hearts tomorrow before they start preparing for the Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen at Hampden the following week.

Celtic are unbeaten in 45 domestic games this season and are on 103 points - equalling the records set by Martin O'Neill's title-winning side of 2001/02.

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