Another Iberian city break, another Sunday evening football match. Having previously enjoyed my jaunt to Atletico Madrid’s ground in late 2012, last weekend my fiancee Clare and I took in Sporting Lisbon’s (or Sporting Club de Portugal as they prefer) last home game of the 2014/15 season against Braga. As with my Atletico Madrid trip, I’ve completed a separate match report here
. This post focuses on the stadium experience.
Having gone to Atletico expecting carnage and instead getting a chap smoking a cigar and playing with his iPad, I had a slight reverse experience in Lisbon. I wasn’t expecting things to be too mad for an end of season match in a season which had been decent for Sporting, but not spectacular (safely in third). Having bought some pre-match scran and water from the Lidl handily placed under the stand we would sit in, it was then promptly confiscated on the way in. Our entrance (B) also seemed to be the entrance for the Ultras which saw us come into contact with a couple of interesting characters. The confiscation rule didn’t seem to, thankfully, extend to the Smints and the jumbo pack of cashews in Clare’s handbag.
Once we were inside the stadium and took our seats, things did start to calm down. With that slight mellowing of the mood, we were able to appreciate our surroundings a little. The Alvalade was completed in 2003, built as a replacement stadium for Sporting, and also used as a host stadium at Euro 2004. The stadium, like Uniaio Leiria’s built for the same tournament, has multicoloured seats so that the ground appears to be more full than it actually is. The seats are also padded, which was a merciful break for us having had a very early flight to Lisbon from Edinburgh that morning.
From the second we sat down, it was clear that the Ultras would be taking up residence in the end to the left of us. As they did at the Atletico match, and I’m sure in most other stadiums in Europe, the Ultras made the bulk of the noise in the stadium, the rest of the crowd occasionally joining in.as they felt appropriate. I also liked the fact that this lot of (very well-organised) Ultras seemed to have conductor chaps at the front of the stand telling them what to do. At certain points of the evening, watching the Ultras was far more entertaining than watching the football.
We did also manage to spot some away supporters at the Jose Alvalade – we hadn’t seen any obvious groups of travelling fans at the Calderon. Clearly the tradition in the UK for away supporters is not reflected in wider European football, however a very small gaggle of Braga supporters were doing their best to noise up the home support, even though that largely failed.
The other thing I really noticed was the whistling. When Braga were awarded a stonewall penalty fifteen minutes into the game, the whistling of the home fans in the build-up to the penalty was absolutely deafening. I was impressed that Braga’s Felipe Pardo managed to ignore it a lot better than I did, and send the keeper the wrong way.
In all, it was great to take in football in a different country once again, and appreciate the differences and similarities in how the game is enjoyed abroad. The Portuguese fans are clearly, as you would expect, a knowledgable and passionate bunch. They whistled deafeningly, they cheered, they set off firecrackers and my own personal bete noir, the smoke bomb, they shouted “Golo” when Sporting scored, they even sang a bizarre song set to the tune of “My Way” about their side.
It is those similarities I love though. Even though there is an obvious language barrier in these situations (my attempts at Portuguese were pitiful), people nonetheless have a good idea what you are shouting and vice versa. Every time Nani gave the ball away or did 14 stepovers in a ridiculous position, the woman sitting next to me was presumably shouting the Portugese equivalent of my uncultured “what are you daein Nani” (there might have been some expletives in there). Football is a simple game, and that’s why people across the world, despite its ever-increasing corporate cynicism, love it. A match report will follow, probably tomorrow.