Football in Portugal

In Portugal football is not just a game: it is a way of life. In fact, some might say it is something of a national obsession, certainly for the male half of the population, and if you happen to be in Portugal during an important football match you will see why. All the televisions in bars and cafés are showing the match, and all the men seem to be in the bars watching it. It is a small miracle that the economy can withstand such a slow down in production for those precious ninety minutes! Portugal also has a selection of football newspapers, the most popular being A Bola, O Jogo or Record. These are daily papers that contain about 90% football coverage and 10% coverage of other sports and collectively they have the largest readership in Portugal.

Portugal's football teams are seemingly whisked up out of nowhere as even the smallest towns have managed to get eleven players together. The main concentration of football activity in Portugal is around Lisbon and Porto as the country's three major teams - FC Porto, Lisbon's Sporting Clube de Portugal and SL Benefica - are based there. Between them they have only lost two of the major national championships since 1920, except when smaller Boavista FC from Porto took the lead in 2000 to 2001, so they have quite a monopoly on the beautiful game. Most fans support one of these three teams, but clubs such as Boavista FC, Sporting Braga and Guimarães are also good to watch and have a fair amount of support. The season runs from September until May and you can obtain tickets easily and not at great expense if you fancy going along to a match. The newspapers will give full details of who is playing and where, with Bola pretty much dedicated to this kind of reportage. Even the smallest matches get a decent amount of coverage in the sporting papers.

After matches fans drink, set off fireworks and generally hog the streets, beeping car horns in a post-match celebratory fashion well into the night. It is no surprise then that UEFA's invitation for Portugal to host Euro 2004 was greeted with squeals of delight from the country's many football fans. The European championship tournament has been a real boost to local clubs and perhaps in a few years Portugal's football teams will see a brace of new, talented young players to pep up the spirits of the smaller teams.

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