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Keeping pace with change

As UEFA celebrates its 60th birthday, we look back at the 1960s, when football kept pace with massive social changes and the game became more popular than ever.

Bobby Charlton (right) and Shay Brennan lead Manchester United FC on their lap pf honour after winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1968
Bobby Charlton (right) and Shay Brennan lead Manchester United FC on their lap pf honour after winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1968 ©Getty Images

The 1960s was a decade of development and expansion for UEFA and its competitions. As the European governing body celebrates its 60th birthday, we look back at a memorable ten years when football kept pace with massive social changes and the game became more popular than ever.

Settling into its new home in the Swiss capital, Berne, after moving from Paris at the start of 1960, UEFA diversified as it gained in stature, promoting constant dialogue and a continual search for improvement within the European game. The UEFA Congress and UEFA Executive Committee were the key decision-making authorities, and additional expert committees were gradually introduced to deal with various aspects of the game, and UEFA's range of activities continued to grow.

Regular courses for coaches and referees were established, as well as conferences for national association general secretaries and presidents. Effective agreements with media and broadcasters became essential, in particular concerning the regulation of television transmissions of football matches.

On the competition front, Real Madrid CF's five-year grip on the European Champion Clubs' Cup – crowned with a magnificent 7–3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 final in Glasgow – finally loosened. The next team striding through came from Portugal. SL Benfica, masterminded by brilliant Hungarian technician Béla Guttmann, triumphed in 1961 and 1962 – and a shy Mozambican-born youngster hit the headlines. Eusébio's two goals settled a thrilling 5–3 victory over Real Madrid in 1962, and 'the Black Pearl' went on to collect the European Footballer of the Year award in 1965. "It was the moment which launched my career," said Eusébio of his exploits. "That was the game that made me believe that I could be a world-class player."

The mid-60s brought the Italian football stronghold of Milan to the fore – the city's two sides were kings of Europe. AC Milan prevailed in 1963, with Brazilian spearhead José Altafini scoring 14 goals, then FC Internazionale Milano took over in 1964 and 1965. Coach Helenio Herrera's charges included the brilliant full-back Giacinto Facchetti and the sophisticated attacking skills of Sandro Mazzola, who still speaks in awe of that first triumph in 1964. "The captain lifted the trophy, then we ran around the pitch with [Armando] Picchi, who was a great, great captain," he explained. "Every now and again he allowed us to touch it and to lift it, and it didn't seem real to us. When we went back to the hotel and we couldn't sleep, we stayed up all night chatting – only then did we realise we had won the European Cup."

British success finally arrived. Scotland's Celtic FC – fielding a team of players who had grown up within a 50km radius of Glasgow – surfed on a wave of glorious attacking football to triumph in 1967, their 2–1 success over Internazionale in Lisbon earning the closely-knit side immortality as the Lisbon Lions. "We always had the attitude of you and us – we can beat you when we're on top of our game," said Celtic captain Billy McNeill. "The very fact that the Italian club met us in the final was magnificent, and as they came out of the tunnel they started singing, so we started singing louder than them and I think that is what helped us."

There was great poignancy when the trophy crossed over to England the following year. Manchester United FC's precocious young team built by manager Matt Busby had been on the verge of a European breakthrough in 1958, when the Munich air disaster cost eight players their lives. Ten years on, a new side came good on home soil to overcome Benfica 4–1 on an emotional night at Wembley. Two players who, along with Busby, had survived at Munich were in the 1968 outfit – Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes. They were joined by Northern Ireland's George Best, whose Beatle-length hair, magnetic appeal and extraordinary skills made him arguably football's first 'pop star'. "It was a marvellous night because it put things right in a way," said Charlton. "The accident had happened, this great tragedy and loss had taken place. It helped Matt Busby. This made it a little easier for him in some ways."

The flowering of a generation from a relatively unheralded country marked the end of the decade. The emergence of the Netherlands as a footballing force came with the arrival of Amsterdam club AFC Ajax. Driven by innovative coach Rinus Michels and his on-field lieutenant, the dynamic young superstar-in-waiting Johan Cruyff, Ajax reached the 1969 final, where the power of AC Milan was to prove too much for them. Nevertheless, much more would be heard of Ajax and Cruyff in the decade to come.

The 1960s also heralded the start of a sister club competition for the Champion Clubs' Cup – the European Cup Winners' Cup – open to winners of UEFA member associations' domestic cup competitions. The first edition in 1960/61 was not run by UEFA, but by central Europe's Mitropa Cup organisers, and UEFA assumed the organisation the following season. From 1963, the Cup Winners' Cup final was staged over one match at a chosen European venue. The competition gained in prestige and boasted a distinguished list of winners in the 1960s – AC Fiorentina, Club Atlético de Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur FC, Sporting Clube de Portugal, West Ham United FC, Borussia Dortmund, FC Bayern München, Milan and ŠK Slovan Bratislava.

The second European Nations' Cup, meanwhile, saw 29 European associations enter, proving that the competition was on the right track. The format remained the same as for the first edition, with a four-team final round. Spain hosted the final tournament and made their home advantage count. Spurred on by the all-round talents of midfielder Luis Suárez, Spain edged out the USSR 2–1 in the 1964 final in Madrid. "Other Spanish national teams I played in were much better than that 1964 side but we never achieved anything," the gifted Suárez said. "That one was a team rather than a selection of top players."

The 1968 competition was the first to be named the European Football Championship and brought a new format. The qualification phase now comprised qualifying groups that led to a quarter-final round featuring the eight group winners. The final tournament consisted of semi-finals, the final and a third-place play-off. Italy staged the 1968 final round, and again the hosts took the title. The Azzurri won by the toss of a coin after a 0–0 semi-final draw with the USSR and then beat Yugoslavia 2–0 in a replayed final after the first game had ended in a 1–1 draw.

Two key figures were at UEFA's helm in the 1960s – Gustav Wiederkehr (Switzerland), who succeeded Ebbe Schwartz as UEFA president in April 1962, and his compatriot Hans Bangerter, who became general secretary in 1960 and held this post for nearly three decades. Having taken its first steps in the 1950s, UEFA grew into a sturdy 'youngster' in the following decade and strode boldly towards its age of maturity in the 1970s…