Football, the sport that Americans call soccer to distinguish it from the American football that we call rugby,is considered to be the “king of sports”. And in Portugal we have a very peculiar way of living football. It is more than a sport for us, it is a way of life! Why? Football represents so many things and it is so deeply rooted in our daily life that we cannot imagine living without it. It is the main subject when you go out to have a drink or a coffee with your friends, there are 3 national daily newspapers dedicated to only that subject and it is covered by the 4 Portuguese TV channels. If you don’t like football or if you are not a big fan of this sport, you will find yourself a little bit lost in a middle of a conversation with your friends and sometimes even excluded.
On the other hand, despite loving football and considering ourselves fanatics of this beautiful sport, there is no violence between the official supporters comparing to the South American Countries and also to some other European countries. Portuguese supporters are very fairplay.
There are 3 football clubs that the national and international press consider to be the most important and with international projection: FC Porto, SL Benfica and Sporting CP.
SL Benfica is based in Lisbon. It hasithe highest number of supporters.it is actually considered to be one of the biggest clubs in the world in terms of club members. During the dictatorial regime between 1926 and 1974, SL Benfica represented the values of the political system, a flag and a channel. Dictator “António Salazar” (who was a SL Benfica supporter) used it as a trick to oppress Portuguese people and connect them to his nationalism.
This helped Benfica to become one of the biggest clubs in the world in the 60’s and 70’s (Benfica’s Golden Age) in which the club won 2 European cups (1960/61 and 61/62) with the one of the best players ever: “Eusébio”. After that, Benfica reached the final of the European cup 5 more times but lost against teams like Ajax, PSV and AC Milan. Nowadays, Benfica is the current Portuguese bi-champion which was a big step to break FC Porto’s hegemony in the last 30 years. It is still the club with more Portuguese championships and Portuguese cups.
Sporting CP is the other big Portuguese club of the capital city, Lisbon. Despite having won just one international trophy (winner of the European cup in the 60’s), it has 18 Portuguese champion cups and 16 Portuguese cups, which makes Sporting the 3rd club in Portugal with the most domestic trophies. Finally, Sporting CP is not only a football club, it is also home to almost all the disciplines, for which it won many trophies,more than any other club in Portugal.Fc Porto has been the most successful since the 80’s, having conquered 7 international trophies (2 Champions leagues, 2 UEFA cups/UEFA European leagues, 1 European Super Cup and 2 International Cups). It is one of the European clubs with more international trophies and it is the club which makes more money with the sales of players. It is considered a case-study in this field and it is a gateway for players who want to achieve the richest European clubs. Some important personalities were part of this club, such as José Mourinho, one of the best coaches in the world.
How can such a small country have such a big history in this sport? We have 2 players in the top 10 best players ever: Eusébio and Cristiano Ronaldo. The last one reached a level and did things that no other player could everachieve. It is the most popular player in the world nowadays, and together with Leonel Messi, they have been leading the football world for a decade. No one has ever done it before, that is why we can consider them both the 2 best players ever.
Despite having important clubs and personalities in football, the Portuguese national team still has to achieve one important thing… We have already reached a final once (European Cup in 2004) but we lost against Greece while playing home . We went far in international competitions (several semi-finals)but even during thegolden age (Figo, Rui Costa, João Pinto, Couto, Vitor Baía) we couldn’t win any trophies. We hope that Cristiano Ronaldo can win something for Portugal before his retirement.