Portugal News

portuguese press review plus the odd insight

Archive for the ‘football and other sports’ Category

Miracle required in Bethlehem (again)

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Belenenses, my Portuguese club, is in big financial difficulties after having its stadium sequestered by the bank earlier this year. The club is now in talks with Lisbon City Council on a plan to develop the ground and its surrounding 11 hectares, located in the plush suburb of Restelo, with a modernized but smaller stadium surrounded by a high-end gym, private clinic and care home.

Previous schemes to develop the impressive Belenenses stadium and its facilities, involving construction of flats and office blocks, have flopped because of the sensitive location a few hundred yards behind the 16th century Jeronimos Monastery. Club president Antonio Soares told Publico the latest plan to redevelop the stadium area doesn’t involve any residential or commercial premises. With debts of at least €20 million Belenenses future could rest on the scheme getting approval from the local authorities, warned Soares.

Belenenses, said to be the second team of most Lisbon folk who either support Benfica or Sporting but with a hard-core fanbase of around 2,000, won the Portuguese league in 1946 to become only the second team to break the Portuguese ‘trioploly’ of Porto, Benfica and Sporting. Boavista of Porto were crowned Portuguese champions in 2001.

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Written by porkncheezer

September 12, 2011 at 9:54 am

Benfica’s eagle shenanigans

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Benfica have fired their eagle mascot Vitoria, pictured here giving coach Jorge Jesus the bird, and replaced her with another of the same species with the same name. Vitoria II will be accompanied at pre and post-match displays by another eagle called Gloriosa. We’ll have more on Benfica’s pre-season transfer dealings soon.

Written by porkncheezer

June 20, 2011 at 6:43 am

Toff versus urchin

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There’s little Portuguese interest left in European football this season. Apart from the all-Luso Europa League final tonight in Dublin between FC Porto and Braga! Several articles in national press highlight the differences and connections between the two club’s coaches, Andre Villas-Boas of Porto and Domingos Pacienca of Braga.

Villas-Boas, 33, is often described as aristocratic by Portugal’s media. He is the grandson of a viscount and comes from an old Ango-Portuguese family connected to the Douro valley port wine trade.  He got his big break when his then neighbour in the leafy Porto suburb of Foz, Bobby Robson, took him under his wing. Villas-Boas had written to Robson, in his excellent English, to suggest Porto’s new manager play striker Domingos Pacienca more often.  After a playing career in Portugal and Spain, Pacienca, known in Portugal as Domingos, ended up coach at Braga.

High-born Villas-Boas is often said to be the natural successor to Jose Mourinho as Portugal’s most successful coach. But the current Porto supremo prefers  to compare himself with Bobby Robson, his early mentor at the club. Mourinho and Villa-Boas were once thick as thieves when the latter worked as the Special One’s scout at Porto, Chelsea and then Inter. This close relationship appears to have cooled since Villa-Boas took the plunge to coach his own team.

Domingos, from industrialized Leca da Palmeira near Porto, is widely seen as an urchin compared to toff Villa-Boas. He had to be put on a build-up diet when taken on as an apprentice player by FC Porto aged 13.  After hanging up his playing boots his first coaching gig was in charge of Porto reserves followed by spells at Uniao Leiria and Academica of Coimbra before replacing Jorge Jesus at Braga in 2009.

Both Domingos and Villas-Boas are relatively taciturn in interviews and let their teams do the talking for them. Porto’s coach has yet to give a one-to-one interview. But has been known to respond to somewhat off-the-wall questions at press conferences.

Written by porkncheezer

May 18, 2011 at 9:04 am

The players’ player

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Raul Meireles, Liverpool’s Portuguese soccer ace, gets interviewed by Expresso this week. It took him a while to adjust to the pace of the English Premiership after a GBP 12m move from FC Porto to Liverpool last year, he says, where he began playing on the left wing in 4-4-2 formation instead of his more natural central midfield berth. Meireles was returned to his favoured position when Kenny Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson at Anfield. The Portuguese international rapidly found form and played a key role in Liverpool’s revival with his trademark long-range goals and pinpoint crosses from midfield.

Meireles prefers English football to the game in his native country because it requires a lower level of skill but more tactical awareness. Kenny Dalglish is seen as a god by the Anfield faithful, says Meireles, who admits to having seen some youtube clips of the former Scottish international striker in his pomp. The ex-Porto and Boavista player goes for a regular drink with his Liverpool team-mates but says English fans tnd to appreciate players’ on-field exploits rather than which super models they hang out with. In Portugal things are the other way round, he wryly notes.

Fellow countryman Nani plays up the road in Manchester but the two Portuguese “craques” rarely meet up outside of international duty, Meireles tells Expresso. Probably something to do with the longstanding bitter rivalry between the two clubs who rarely have transfer or other dealings. Raul Jose Trindade Meireles was born 27 years ago in Porto. He was elected player of the year this season by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) in England.

Written by porkncheezer

May 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm

A quick football roundup

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Braga coach Domingos Pacienca, due to lead his team out against Porto next week in the Europa League grand finale, will leave the club after the upcoming all-northern clash in Dublin. There is speculation he could head south to take charge of Sporting or even be lined up for a job abroad. Meanwhile, Porto manager Andre Villas-Boas is reportedly in line to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, although Porto say their man has a long career in charge of the Dragons.

After being knocked out of the Europa League semi-final by his former club Braga,  Benfica coach Jorge Jesus had to sweat a few days to see if he would continue in charge of the Lisbon eagle worshippers. But club president Luis Filipe Vieira has confirmed JJ will remain in charge of the team next season. Vieira, meanwhile, looks set to boost his powers within Benfica to keep a tighter rein on its day-to-day running.

Business daily Diario Economico asks why Braga have punched above their weight at home and abroad in recent seasons. Sound finances, apparently, are what has brought stability and success to the club since president Antonio Salvador arrived in 2003. Braga have turned a tidy profit most seasons, mainly through selling players they have nurtured and developed. Only €800,000 has been spent on players while around €30m has been earned from selling them on. With just one game left in the Liga Zon Sagres Braga are third-placed below champions Porto and runners-up Benfica and could well finish above Sporting currently in 4th.

Written by porkncheezer

May 11, 2011 at 9:57 am

Vote Futre!

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Former Portuguese international soccer star Paul Futre currently appears in ads for Licor Beirao as a chancer politician making seemingly off-the-cuff and daft election pledges. Publico runs a nice feature on how these commercials were created with Futre’s approval and  loosley based on his rash promises when in the frame to become the new coach of Sporting Lisbon to sign a mystery Chinese soccer star to revive the club’s former glories. Sporting would make piles of cash, populist Futre extemporised, by operating a Beijing-Lisbon air bridge to bring tens of thousands of new Asian “sportinguistas” to see their idol strut his stuff in Portugal’s 1st Division. Chinese fans would also pay to stay in Sporting-run hotels on their frequent Lisbon visits, punted Futre. Unsurprisingly he wasn’t elected on the winning Sporting ticket.

Hip and Guardianesque Publico, essentially sympathetic to Futre despite his somewhat rough diamond image in Portugal, also recounts the playmaker’s inglorious spell at English Premier outfit West Ham in 1996. In the twilight of his playing career signed for The Hammers. Turning up for his debut against Arsenal at Highbury he saw his shirt had the number 16 on the back instead of his beloved 10.

“Eusebio number 10! Pele number 10! Maradona number 10! Futre number 10 and no fucking 16!”, the ex-AC Milan, FC Porto and Atletico Madrid man furiously (and ungrammatically) told Hammers’ gaffer Harry Redknapp, who still apparently retells the chestnut of Futre’s egotistical strop at his frequent and lucrative (used 50s please squire!) after-dinner speeches.

Written by porkncheezer

May 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm

A few thoughts on Portuguese soccer

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho have, in their own inimitable and separate ways, become too big for Portugal’s national game. But every cryptic utterance by Mr Mourinho and new version of his marionette CR7’s step-over routine get exhaustive coverage by Portugal’s media. Despite Portugal’s Liga Sagres being strictly second-tier in European terms, three Portuguese clubs contested the semi-finals of this season’s Europa League. FC Porto will almost certainly make the final in Dublin next month after spanking Villareal 5-nil at the Dragon Stadium.

Either Benfica or Braga will take on Porto in the Europa League showpiece final. Benfica are favourite to travel to Ireland in May after beating Braga 2-1 at Estadio da Luz in the first leg of their semi-final. Why are Portuguese clubs so successful outside of Champions League where they can’t match the financial resources of  Spanish, Italian, German and English teams? In my opinion it’s partly down to improving national coaches who are nearly all Portuguese these days. The main clubs were until relatively recently happy to appoint foreign coaches, with dubious success records, in periodic bids to restore former glory. Mourinho’s notable achievements have woken club owners up to the fact that national can mean quality rather than second-rate.

Another factor is players from Brazil and Latin America coming to Portugal to play and put themselves in a shop window. Most of Porto and Benfica’s key midfielders and hitmen hale from LatAm. Many of these players have a similar approach to bending the rules, or gamesmanship, to indigenous Portuguese colleagues so it’s easy to blend in. Just think Porto keeper Baia feigning fatal injury from a sniper’s rifle in the UEFA final against Celtic a few years ago!

Such things would never occur in the English Premiership, eh, boys?

Written by porkncheezer

April 29, 2011 at 11:14 am