Saturday, 11 October 2014

Lisbon (a) Part 2

Now to start the left wing of the 'butterfly formation' plan to visit league stadia in Lisbon. It was the day after the victory against Sporting Club de Portugal where we should have won by a canter and it was time to properly show my colours. Chelsea logo'd t-shirt, blue shorts and even blue socks. Yes, I looked like a complete bender but also it was important to look as much of a tourist as possible when visiting my remaining four stadia. No Stone-Island jackets, Burberry scarves or Polo baseball caps worn here.
The first stop was Atlético Clube de Portugal which as with many football clubs in the country is part of a larger sporting franchise. Based at the Estádio da Tapadinha, it also boasts a basketball and gymnastics team (among others) under its Atlético Clube de Portugal name.
It plays in the Portuguese Liga de Honra (Liga Orangina) which is the equivalent of our Championship. A stadium in the middle of nowhere but with beautiful views of the Ponte 25 de Abril which resembles a mini Golden Gate Bridge with a huge statue of Jesus in the distance like the Christ The Redeemer Art Deco colossus in Rio.
All the club's staff were in and accompanied by their pet dogs who seemed to stare at me in bafflement. I walked around the stadium having asked the groundsman's permission - no issues whatsoever. Again, it was the West Stand benches all round. The directors' area was probably not up to Roman's standard only boasting a few chairs, a power socket and a dustbin inside.
One seemed to take the description quite literally and was just an empty box with a view onto the pitch.
As I sat in one of the seats and peered out I noticed a young gent below me texting on his 'phone. Then more and more athletic looking chaps started to appear. It was then that I hoped that perhaps there would be a chance of me of catching a training session.
Nope, in fact there was a match taking place a few hours later. I spoke to the club's doctor - a very lovely lady called Rita who was cognesccent of the fact we at Chelsea also have Eva as a female member of staff. She explained that the reason the players had appeared was not for training - but because there was an actual match taking place that afternoon. At 4pm. "Why at that time?" I asked. "Because we have no floodlights", was her seemingly embarrassed reply. A good answer... and this is a club that plays one division off the top flight!
She kindly offered me a free ticket which I declined. For one thing, they only cost 4 Euros in any case and secondly with a flight at 8pm it would leave things tight for reaching the airport in time. A shame... but my visit to the stadium did not bring them any luck with the side losing 2-1 later that day to Oliveirense.
It was a great experience to visit a friendly club that really felt part of the community with such fantastic views from its terraces that normally average 4,000 fans.

The second ground to visit that day was one that plays in the top flight - C.F. Os Belenenses. It plays at the Estádio do Restelo which is not that far away from Atlético.
This was where I had to be a bit sneaky as the ground was closed to visitors and its museum shut for lunch (as you do on the continent). It again boasts many other sporting activities including handball and rugby under the one club's name. It is a strange ground as three-quarters of it is new but one-quarter has been left bare.
It appears to have been done so in order to leave a view of the Rio Tejo river for spectators should a match become tedious.
Despite the newness of some of the stadium, it was lovely to see that it had still kept some of its old, quaint ticket booths.
It was hard work to try to find the official entrance to the ground and while doing so I read through some of the history of the club. The most interesting is seeing which famous names have played for it and amongst the biggest shocks was to find out that our very own Messiah, Jose Mourinho was a player there for one season (coincidentally, while his father was manager too!)

A huge memorial to a former player, José Manuel Soares lies next to the club's administrative offices. He died in 1931 at the age of 23 from food poisoning. It is a tradition that whenever FC Porto visits CF Belenenses for a match, the team always leaves a wreath in front of the statue before the game begins as his final ninety minutes on a football field took place for the national side in Porto.
I sat at the ground's bistro/restaurant to have a lovely lunch and contemplate matters when yet again a dog that was part of the stadium workers' team came up and sniffed my leg. "That dogs bark at me as I halt by them".

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