DJ’S JOTTINGS – NUMBER 37 (Portugal)
Matchday images (6) https://picasaweb.google.com/footballgroundsinfocus/Portugal
Portugal is always a very pleasant country to visit so the opportunity for a long weekend trip to the north of the country was eagerly snapped up. Our quartet takes a Ryanair flight from Gatwick to Porto’s smart modern airport and via an upgraded hire car, move on up to Guimaraes about 60km north-east of Porto, for the Friday night game.
A re-visit for me to the Estadio D. Afonso Henriques, where I had previously seen the 0-0 draw between Italy and Denmark at Euro 2004. The fact that it was goal-less had nothing to do with the re-visit I hasten to add. The ground is all seated and all covered with 3 continuous stands in a horseshoe shape and a separate stand at one end. The side stands are slightly curved, all have 2 tiers and the total capacity is just over 30,000.
Vitoria Sport Clube de Guimaraes was formed by a group of young students in 1922. Their list of honours is short but they are usually in the top division and finished 3rd in 2008, going on to play Portsmouth in European competition. 4th at the time of our visit, their squad contained no less than 14 Brazilians (their nationality not the hair style !). 10 Euros are charged for entry and a free newspaper magazine is available from the club shop. Vitoria miss a host of chances and are caught on the break by mid-table visitors, Academica Coimbra, just before the hour mark and again at the death for a 2-0 away win. 11,885 spectators watch the game.
Stroll into the ‘centro historico’ for a bit of culture. After all, Guimaraes is one of two European Capitals of Culture in 2012, it was the birthplace of the first Portuguese king, Afonso I, or Afonso Henriques (hence the name of the football stadium) and the historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cobbled streets, nice old Churches and houses with verandas surrounded by fairy lights provide a pleasant vista while we sit at an outdoor café sipping port.
Drive about 85km south for our Saturday morning (11.15) game. Santa Maria de Feira is known for its bread (fogaca) and 11th century castle, not for its football team. The Estadio Marcolino de Castro takes a bit of finding and none of the locals seem to know of it. Turn up at 2 other grounds before we find the right one. The multi-purpose ‘Marcolino de Castro’ was opened in 1962 and holds 4,667. Slightly elevated seating decks on each of the 4 sides with just the main side covered. Standing is possible at pitch level or to the rear of the seats on the open side. There are floodlight pylons in each corner, but all the bulbs have been removed.
CD Feirense was founded in 1918 and has reached the top flight 3 times, only to be immediately relegated on each occasion. They are 4th in the Liga de Honra (Division II) prior to our match against leaders Trofense. Feirense win a tight game 1-0 with the solitary goal coming on the hour. The attendance is estimated at 760, 10 Euros is charged for entrance and there is no evidence of ‘paperwork’.
Just a 60km drive takes us to Pacos De Ferreira for our afternoon game. Have time to try a local delicacy, but the stew of fat, bone and gristle mixed with beans and rice is not particularly appetising.
Primera Liga Pacos play at the Estadio Da Mata Real, a 5,255 capacity venue that has been home since 1973. Seated, mainly covered stands run along most of the sides with open seating at one end.
15 euros paid for admission to a decent game with Vitoria Setubal. Pacos have qualified for Europe twice in the last few years and they are generally on top in a 2-0 victory, although Setubal do strike the woodwork twice in the first half. An estimated crowd of 2,300 attend.
Spend the Saturday night in Porto, based at the Pao de Acucar b n’ b. Stroll down to the Ribeiro district on the banks of the River Douro. A fine meal is enjoyed at one of the numerous restaurants, the waiter performing magic tricks between courses. Unfortunately, he does not make the bill disappear.
Have another 11.15 kick-off on the Sunday in the town of Oliveira de Azameis, about 40km south of Porto. UD Oliveirense have a fairly small (2,670 capacity) ground built into a hillside. The entrance is high up in one corner with steep steps leading down to the spectating areas along the near side and near end. Just the centre of the side stand is under cover. 15 euros charged for entry to this Liga de Honra (Div II) match with Leixoes and get a free baseball cap when a club official finds out that we have come from afar to watch them.
Not a great football match, but plenty of entertainment is provided for the 1,700 crowd in the form of fouling, whingeing and outrageous time-wasting, gamesmanship and general cheating. Each side have one player dismissed, both coaches are banished from the dugouts and there’s about a dozen bookings. The home keeper makes a couple of good saves when he’s not play-acting. The only goal is scored by Oliveirense and is enough to take them to the top of the table. It is somewhat controversial though and could have been reasonably disallowed for hand-ball, a foul on the keeper, or offside !
Our party now splits for the final game of the trip. Most head for Rio Ave, but having been there and done albeit without buying a replica shirt, I opt for Varzim SC in the pleasant town of Povoa de Varzim on the Atlantic coast 30km above Porto. Our last night accommodation is at the Costa Verde Hotel, only 200 metres from the Estadio do Varzim Sport Club. Located right on the seafront, it has separate seated stands on all four sides, all bar one under cover and is capable of holding 11,000 spectators. Varzim have had 21 seasons in the top flight, but at the time of my visit are struggling in the second tier. Playing mid-table Freamunde they have plenty of possession and create chances, but lack the finish that the visitors produce to win 2-0. Entrance costs a reasonable 7 euros and a free club magazine is obtained. An estimated 1,800 watch the match.
Shortly afterwards we find out that the indoor sports hall adjoining the stadium is staging a basketball match between CD Povoa and Sangalhos DC. Not in the top league, but a decent standard nonetheless, the home side winning 61-56, the final clinching score carried out with an elaborate slam-dunk.
Conclude the evening with a fine meal at the Albatroz restaurant, very reasonably priced so long as you don’t have a Belgian Trappist beer ! Conclude the trip with a Monday morning stroll along the seafront. Observe a couple of unusual works of art: a sculpture that looks like Monty Python’s fish-slapping dance, but with plump women and a statue of a man looking out to sea from a chimney !
Club football in Portugal is not always the most exciting, but there are some decent grounds and the place itself is extremely friendly and inviting and highly recommended.
contributed on 28/02/121