We visit one of the most scenic grounds in world football, Restelo, the home of Os Belenenses, and its privileged view over the Tagus estuary.
Here’s a question for you: The ‘Big Three’ of Portuguese football – Benfica, Sporting and FC Porto – between them have won all the country’s league championships since its inauguration in 1934-35 season, except two. Who won the other two?
You could have said Boavista in 2000-01, or you could have said Belenenses in 1945-46. That’s how unequal Portuguese football is. In my previous two matches in Portugal, I’ve witnessed Benfica dispatch Académica 3-0 and some years ago a Sporting team featuring Manchester United-destined Nani and Anderson destroy Naval 4-0. Boring.
In search of the ‘second class’ of Portuguese football – those scratching around for a Europa League spot or maybe a cup run – and hopefully some form of contest, I went along to Belenenses versus Vitória Setúbal, from Jose Mourinho’s home town. [Continues]
The Lisbon district of Belém translates to English as ‘Bethlehem’ and it’s from here that Vasco da Gama set sail to find a route to India. His success is marked in stone in the Monument to the Discoveries. Belém – pronounced very nasally as ‘Ber-layn’ – is also home to the impressive Torre de Belém and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a great white edifice of a monastery.
Follow up the hill from these monuments and you arrive at the 20,000-capacity horseshoe of the Estádio do Restelo, home of Football Club Os Belenenses (literally, the people of Belém).
The ticket office is a tiny block beyond the stadium where I parted with €20 for a seat on the halfway line. Vitória fans had come in good numbers – Setúbal is only 30 kms south of Lisbon – but the drums and flags certainly added vibrancy to a largely deserted stadium.
Neither curve was populated, and even in the main stands on either side weren’t full. I haven’t managed to find the attendance but it can’t have been more than 3,000, I imagine. The club is a stone’s throw from thousands of tourists on the riverside, I can’t help thinking it could market itself better. [Continues]
Being an athletics stadium, supporters are far from the pitch, but it does retain a level of intimacy. And the view to the south – the silhouettes of monkey puzzle trees, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the passing ships – must be one of the best views from any ground anywhere in the world.
The visitors were far more accomplished and ran out comfortable 3-0 winners to go fifth. As in Spain, when home fans are disaffected with the management they wave their white hankies, so the sight of that happening around the ground in the closing minutes must make Belenenses coach Sá Pinto a little nervous.
You can watch the highlights here:
How to get to Belenenses
Belém station is just three stops and around seven minutes’ travel from Cais do Sodré station in the city’s dockland heart. From there it’s a few minutes up the hill from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.