Teaser for Azorean football – Facts and experiences from an Eden Azores reader (Guest Post)
In my opinion in order to be able to write a successful blog it is very important for the author to be curious and open minded. It’s important to show interest in topics which – at first – do not seem to be that exciting. For me this topic was football (soccer).
A few months ago all headlines on the Azores were celebrating local football team which made it to the top division of the Portuguese football league system. I remember sharing an article about this victory on the Eden Azores Facebook page, but this was pretty much my reaction to the win.
But a few weeks ago a very kind reader (Dani) asked me when I will finally write an article about Azorean football. I do try to take reader requests into consideration when choosing a new topic for an article, but I am / was simply a stranger to football. Dani even wrote to me about his holiday on Sao Miguel, which included attending a football game at the stadium in Ponta Delgada where he had a wonderful time.
So I asked him to write a guest post about Azorean football for you. Dani did not hesitate to take this challenge, and got back to me within a very short time with an excellent article about his experiences with Azorean football. In fact, his article inspired me to go and see a game for myself.
Without further ado I would like you to read Dani’s inspiring article. Hereby I would like to express my gratitude to Dani for making me curious about Azorean football and for writing this great summary.
Azorean football success – Santa Clara in the premier league
After 15 years, in May 2018, the football team C.D. Santa Clara made it again into the Portuguese premier league (Liga NOS). It must have been a dream come true for all the fans of the most famous Azorean football club to see their beloved team make it to the top – with no less than a silver medal. In the last few years C. D. Santa Clara was stuck in the second division – ranked 15th and 16th – and there were times when there was the threat they relegate into the third division. After such mediocre history the fact that they made it into the premier league is itself a miracle. And hopefully this miracle will continue in the Liga NOS, and if the 4 matches played so far are any indication – with 1 win, 2 draws, and 1 losses – the team is currently ranks 8th in the season which makes it a soaring success
Portuguese soccer stars on Sao Miguel island
The highlights of this football season will definitely be the matches where Santa Clara is hosting Os Três Grandes (The Big Three), the three most powerful sport clubs in Portugal: SL Benfica, Sporting CP and FC Porto. The Big Three need no introduction to football affectionados, since they are multiple European Champion Clubs’ Cup, UEFA Cup Winners Cup, and UEFA Europa League winners. With the exception of Belenenses in 1945 – 46 and Boavista in 2000-01, the same three clubs have won the Primeira Liga title altogether 82 times – Benfica (36 times), Porto (28 times) and Sporting CP (18 times) – in the Liga history of 84 years. These three clubs generally end up sharing the top three positions, appearing more frequently in UEFA competitions and are the only three clubs in Portugal to have never been relegated.
So the fantastic news is that Os Três Grandes will most likely be playing matches on Sao Miguel on the following dates:
- Sporting CP – 4th of November, 2018, 5pm
- FC Porto – 16th of December, 2018, 4pm
- SL Benfica – 12th of January, 2019, 4pm
I highly recommend these matches for everyone who will be on Sao Miguel on these dates, and of course for those who are still planning their trip to the Azores.
In September 2017 I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Santa Clara vs. Uniao Madeira match in Estadio de Sao Miguel, in Ponta Delgada. This battle of “neighbors” was won by the home team in the last minute, with a result of 2:1. The tickets cost only a few euros – very cheap compared to Hungarian football ticket prices. Also I found it a very elegant gesture that ladies were allowed into the stadium free of charge. There was no need to have a supporter’s ID card, neither were palm vein scanners installed at the entrance (*both of these measures were recently introduced in Hungarian football stadiums to secure access to stadiums and to identify fans).
The locals were incredibly cool and friendly, and overall it must be said that the event had a very familial atmosphere. Sadly, eating sunflower seeds by the barrel load is not in vogue here, instead Azorean football fans are snacking on olives. We found the red-white popcorn of Santa Clara also to be very appealing. I bought a scarf in the shop of the stadium for 10 EUR – which is somewhat cheaper than average. The location of the stadium is ideal both on foot and with car, and there is also ample parking available.
The Hungarian connection in Azorean football
Most of you probably never knew but there are in fact 2 players, Vincze István (1998 – 2000) and Vayer Gábor (2001 – 2004) who played in Santa Clara. It is important to mention – hopefully not a coincidence – that during both of their engagement the club was in the premier league.
Azorean football legend – the flight of the “Azorean eagle”
No article about Azorean football would be complete without mentioning its most prominent player from the 90s and early 2000: the legendary Pauleta (full name: Pedro Miguel Carreiro Resendes). Pauleta – who scored 47 goals in 88 matches for Portugal and thus set a national record at the time of his retirement, in fact he still holds the 2nd place on the list of all-time top goal scorers – was born in Ponta Delgada, and started his football career in Santa Clara. Later he moved on to Estoril, Salamanca, La Coruna, and Bordeaux, to finally arrive to Paris Saint Germain. Pauleta scored more goals than other famous Portuguese football legends – such as Luis Figo and Eusebio – and is only preceded by Cristiano Ronaldo. Pauleta never forgot about his roots, and is famed for his legendary goal celebration gesture of spreading his arms like wings earning him the nickname “Açor” after the Azores Islands native bird (which is also featured on the regional flag of the Autonomous Region of the Azores). The “Azorean eagle” swooped down almost 300 times during his football career (727 matches / 279 goals) which is an incredible feat.
All in all I think that watching a C. D. Santa Clara match in the stadium of Ponta Delgada can be an interesting and fun addition to an Azorean holiday: a friendly, upbeat Portuguese game where the stadium is located between beautiful surroundings, the popcorn is sweet, and instead of sunflower seeds football fans are spitting olive pits.
My own experience about an Azorean football match
Yesterday I had my first football game experience at São Miguel. For one of my blog reader’s Dani recommendation, I went to see this game. Last evening FC Porto played with a local team Santa Clara. Santa Clara plays also in the 1st league in Portugal. It was an exciting match and Santa Clara played very well. FC Porto won 2: 1. Fortunately, I visited this event with a soccer expert so I always knew what was happening. Thanks Nuno for the super „first” football experience ! I really advice everyone to visit an Azorean football match during a trip to the Azores.
For this article I used the information and photos from the Pauleta official facebook site and from our writer Dani.
For the latest news follow us on the Azori Éden Facebook page. For more inspiration and beautiful photos check out the Edenazores Instagram, and for comprehensive posts of course the www.edenazores.com blog.