I’ve been to Portugal many times, but until my most recent trip, I hadn’t experienced the Portuguese football culture. I was supposed to check out a Porto match a few years ago, but got the dates wrong. Emerging from the Metro outside the mighty Estadio Dragao I was greeted by the sight of empty pavements, bar a solitary figure sweeping up rubbish with a broom. The rubbish was from yesterday’s fixture. My travelling companion was not impressed with my logistical planning, but the medicinal qualities of the port we procured later that evening helped us recover our mood. I had never polished off an entire bottle of port before and I can report it is an unusual experience. Unlike the obnoxious drunkenness you might associate with lager or vodka, a session on the port is quite floaty, like being heavily tranquilised. It’s not unpleasant, but it does leave you feeling slightly detached from reality for several days afterwards.
Anyway, there was no port consumed in the Algarve. It was far too hot for that.
My friend and I decided to check out S.C. Olhanense, the team from Olhão, a port town on the south Coast, who were playing U.D. Leiria. Although this was a top flight fixture, both clubs are relative minnows compared to the European giants they share league status with; this was a long way from Benfica v Porto, more like St Mirren v Falkirk with suntans. The Estádio José Arcanjo is a stadium in the loosest sense of the word, an old football and athletics facility with concrete stands covering three sides, and a car park behind one of the goals. The main stand provided the only shelter from the sun, which was still pretty hot at 4pm, but you had to pay a premium to sit there (about 22 Euro), so we opted for the parallel stand on the other side (12 Euro), which was made of scaffolding. Observe:
Despite the lack of high-spec stadium facilities, I must confess I liked the Arcanjo. In particular, I loved the old concrete stand that ran parallel to the temporary one. It was clearly too far from the pitch (and lacking in seats) for use during football matches, hence the temporary structure that stood in front of it, but I loved the contrast of the white concrete and the painted Olhanense sign against the brilliant blue Southern European sky.
As for the match itself, I had been quite impressed by little Salvador Agra on the right side of the Olhanense midfield, but he didn’t complete the first half. He was completely mismatched against Leiria’s Edson in a challenge for an aerial ball and got cleaned out and dumped on his head in process. The fact that Salvador has a tiny frame made the perpetrator, a powerfully built centre back, look like the most cowardly bully ever. Whether he intended too or not, he’d basically just beaten up a kid. Not cool, Edson.
What happened next turned Salvador into a minor internet sensation, but provoked anger among the spectators, who had been pretty quiet until that point. I can only assume the medical team were all having a smoke when the incident happened, because they took an eternity to begin to amble across the pitch. Make no mistake, this was an unforgivable piss take of a response, and it got worse.
Unable to take any more, one of the players intercepted the lethargic medics and started dragging their medical trolley himself to hurry things up. Then came the moment of “LOL! Epic fail!” glory that no one would choose to be associated with. The medical team, finally woken from their slumber and now visibly panicked by the commotion and the fact they had an unconcious footballer lying in front of them tried to lift Salvador from the turf before all of the stretcher bearers were ready. They proceeded to drop him, thus delivering a second blow to his head in a matter of minutes. Seriously, somebody better get fired for that one.
It didn’t end there. Having transferred him to a pitchside ambulance there was a further delay of several minutes before they finally departed, but when they did the rear doors of the vehicle were still open. Fortunately, someone was alert enough to sprint after and slam the doors shut before they drove off. The only conclusion I could reach was that they were deliberately tormenting Salvador, and I spent the rest of the game trying to work out what he’d done to warrant such hostility. Thankfully, although he had suffered concussion, it’s been reported he’s recovering and there should be no lasting damage.
In the end, Olhanense won 2-1 with a couple of well taken goals. The first, by Wilson Eduardo (on loan from Sporting) was a beauty, instantly smashing in a knock down from the edge of the area (check it out in the highlights) – kudos to Cahiers Dusport (AKA Ben Shave) for picking him out as one to watch. As well as Eduardo, the other of the home team’s players to catch the eye was Brazilian central midfielder, Mateus – a very tidy player why didn’t misplace a single pass.
The tempo of the game was at times quite slow, interspersed with moments of quicker passing and more lively movement when the ball was in the final third. But, as you’d expect in this part of the world, the style was one of short passing and patience, with very few long balls out of defence. My linguistic skills prevent me from interpreting comments from the crowd, but even when the goals went in, it was a pretty mellow affair. Everyone cheered a bit then went back to chilling in the sun. I could get used to it.
Things we learned:
- Don’t be shy with the sun cream in the cheap seats, and wear a hat
- The only Sagres on sale at the ground was of the 0% alcohol variety.
- ‘Puta’ is the fans’ insult of choice, and features in every observation on the linesman’s performance.
- Alentejo clams are very tasty.