March 20, 2018 by David Soares
Footie in Portugal: We’re Surrounded
It’s time to put your scarves on! I know this winter is coming to an end, but we’re halfway through the season… the football season, that is. After all, Lisbon — let us remember, capital of the current European champions — has always been extremely passionate about football.
This passion has been mostly fueled by its two big rivals: Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal. This piece is not about these two clubs, but about the smaller ones, some of them neighborhood clubs playing in lower leagues, whose grounds might just be around the corner from where you are.
Now, the atmosphere in some of those games is often completely different from what you will find in a bigger stadium. There’s usually no half-time entertainment and the stands are much less comfortable, often under the weather. It’s all grassroots football. Definitely a good means to learn some colorful Portuguese vocabulary. Maybe steer clear of the stadium if you’re good friends with the referee… or his mother.
So, starting West:
It bears the name of the inhabitants of the district it was born in, “Os Belenenses” from Belém, and you can see for yourself the bench on which it was created (left) in 1919. Its badge — an Ordem de Cristo cross on a blue background — replicates a symbol that is omnipresent on the surrounding monuments and the ships that set off from there centuries ago.
This is actually one of the bigger clubs in the history of Portuguese football. It has been overshadowed by its two Lisbon rivals, but there was a time when Belenenses was a strong contender. They became Portuguese champions in 1946 and came within four minutes of repeating that success in 1955. They also have three F.A. cups (1942, 1960, 1989) to embellish their silverware room.
Famous Belenenses fans, sometimes endearingly called Pastéis de Nata, include fadistas Amália Rodrigues and Carlos do Carmo, as well as the racing car driver Ayrton Senna, apparently:
Their home, Estádio do Restelo, sits right up the hill behind Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. It’s a beautiful ground, which has yet to be packed for a match, with a capacity of 20,000 on a scenic spot. In fact, Belenenses fans claim it has the best view of all stadia in Portugal, with its outlook towards the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Cristo-Rei and the 25th of April bridge. Although I could think of one or two contenders, I am inclined to agree, at least as far as mainland Portugal is concerned.
Atlético Clube de Portugal
This is Alcântara’s team that plays in yellow and blue, and it celebrated its 75th anniversary a few months ago. Born out of the merger of two local clubs, the nicknamed Carroceiros (literal for “wagoneer” and figurative for “rude, uneducated”) had their heyday when they reached two Cup finals in the 1940s and a third place in the league in 1950.
They haven’t returned to the top tier since the late 1970s, a time when the social structure of Alcântara also started changing dramatically.
Comparatively, Atlético doesn’t compete in many sports, only football and basketball, but you’ll be happy to know the club stands out by owning a bingo! So, if full houses excite you more than scored goals, you can head down to the end of Av. 24 de Julho. Otherwise, Atlético’s home games are played at Estádio da Tapadinha in Alvito, on the southern edge of Monsanto, with a capacity of 4,000 seats and not a bad view either, if you ask me.
On the northern edge of Monsanto, at Estádio Pina Manique, Casa Pia Atlético Clube have their 5,000-seat home. But it’s not their original home. It used to be in Belém in the premises of the foster home for orphans and kids from broken families they are named after. They were evicted in 1940 by the Estado Novo for the sake of the Exposição do Mundo Português (Exhibition of the Portuguese World) and played on borrowed grounds until they settled at Pina Manique in 1954.
Although it was officially founded in 1920, the club boasts several pioneering credits, including as the first Portuguese club to beat a “foreign” opponent: Casa Pia’s school team won over the English club of Carcavelos in 1898. Casa Pia was also the first team from the mainland to play in the Azores.
The Gansos (geese) play all in black in the third tier of Portuguese football these days.
Clube Futebol Benfica
Founded in 1933, in the shadow of their big neighbor with the similar name, Clube Futebol Benfica’s history goes back to 1895, when they were called Grupo Football Benfica. This makes them Lisbon’s oldest football club.
One of their biggest achievements is definitely twice becoming Portuguese champions in women’s football, as recently as 2015 and 2016, thus contributing to the ongoing boost in the female version of the game in Portugal.
The club’s nickname is “Fófó,” but this label is not necessarily to the liking of their fans, – especially the older ones, as it was first coined in a rather derogatory way by their rival fans of S.L. Benfica at a roller hockey game.
Famous former players include Paulo Bento as well as rising stars Gelson Martins and Rúben Semedo. Sadly, the latter, who has been playing in the Spanish league, has just been detained for attempted murder and is waiting for trial, putting his career in jeopardy.
They play in red and black, and their home, Estádio Francisco Lázaro, can be found on Rua Olivério Serpa — right in the heart of Benfica.
Alta de Lisboa
This is probably the youngest club of all, founded just over a decade ago in 2005. The União Desportiva Alta de Lisboa, which plays in red and blue, is still taking baby steps towards affirming itself as a club. Maybe in the same way the urban area is becoming a neighborhood in its own right.
There have been attempts to gloss up the image of the area, starting with its name, which implies a neighborhood at the geographic opposite of Baixa but also on the “up.” This is basically the area on Alto do Lumiar, made up mostly of new urban developments and infrastructures and now duly marked with big letters off the so-called 2ª Circular roadway as you approach the airport. The football club’s ground lies nearby on Rua Tito de Morais, which they share with….
Águias da Musgueira
…who, on the other hand, hold in their name a neighborhood reputed for a few of its social issues. Their red jersey and the Eagles (Águias) nickname give away a strong connection to S.L. Benfica.
The club was founded in 1963 and, undoubtedly, its most famous player is Renato Sanches, who was voted Europe’s best upcoming talent two seasons ago. He first wore his football boots on their pitch at the age of eight. He has failed to live up to his promise so far, unfortunately.
Olivais e Moscavide
They were first known as the Rua Nova football club, named after the street where the club was founded in 1912, now on the site of the Oriente railway station. They took the neighborhood’s name (Grupo Desportivo dos Olivais) in 1935 and expanded it to Clube Desportivo dos Olivais e Moscavide, the latter being the area right by Lisbon city’s limits hemmed in between the Vasco da Gama tower and bridge.
But finding Estádio Alfredo Marques Augusto should take you less time than finding the sea route to India, as it is right across from the Moscavide metro station on Rua João Pinto Ribeiro. It only seats 3,300 people. However, the influx of people to the modern district of Parque das Nações at the turn of the century hasn’t helped increase their fan base. They play in dark red — probably burgundy for the color geeks among you — and blue.
Clube Oriental de Lisboa
Burgundy is quite popular in the East, as it’s also the color used by Clube Oriental de Lisboa, although it is of a paler, more brownish shade (would that be maroon? Colors are not my forte.) Oriental is originally the merger of three clubs: Chelas Futebol Clube, Marvilense Futebol Clube, and Grupo Desportivo “Os Fósforos” (which comes from a local match factory).
In 1946, these three clubs followed the zeitgeist of the time and created their own Eastern bloc in the form of Oriental, which was supposed to compete with the country’s big clubs. And so it did, during a few stints in the first division — but the last one was in the early ’70s.
Guerreiros de Marvila, the “Warriors of Marvila” wage their wars at Campo Engenheiro Carlos Salema (Rua José do Patrocínio) for an audience of just under 2,000 faithful fans.
The aptly named club was founded as the more pretentious Estoril Plage in 1939, just as World War II erupted, when Estoril appeared on the map both as a safe haven for well-off refugees and a neutral playground for spies.
The team shares the same nickname as the Brazilian national squad, Canarinhos, after their yellow jersey — but not quite the same type of sporting success. Estoril Praia are in the top tier but they have been punching above their weight in recent years, and even had two forays in the Europa League.
They play uphill from the famous casino at Estádio António Coimbra da Mota, where one of the stands threatened to collapse last month. But don’t let that put you off.
Special mention for Estrela da Amadora, which were a regular presence in the Portuguese top division for many years, until they were forced into bankruptcy in 2011. It was quite a popular club, which is not surprising when one bears in mind that Amadora, although a Lisbon suburb, is Portugal’s fourth most populated city. Their highlight was winning the Cup in 1990. The club was reborn and focuses on youth squads nowadays.
Their ground, Estádio da Reboleira, can be found off the train station with the same name.