Football Travel: Benfica

Lisbon’s ‘Eagles’ are one of European football’s biggest names. Despite no longer competing for top honours, a pilgrimage to the Estadio da Luz is a must for any football traveller.

 

Historically, it’s one of Europe’s most successful clubs. Benfica – or Sport Lisboa e Benfica (SLB) to use its full name – also has one of the highest memberships of any club in the world and, until the new Estadio da Luz (Stadium of Light) was built for Euro 2004, used to boast Europe’s largest club stadium with 120,000 capacity. [Continues]

 

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The new Estadio da Luz seats just more than half that number (66,000), and even then rarely fills it except for high-calibre Champions League games or crunch matches against the other of Portugal’s ‘Big Three’, FC Porto or cross-town rivals Sporting Clube de Portugal (often mistakenly referred to as ‘Sporting Lisbon’).

 

There were just 34,752 for the match I went to against mid-table Académica de Coimbra, but they made for a decent atmosphere with fans at both ends to provide non-stop songs and smoke bombs.

 

The Benfica match day experience

 

I have to say that visibly it’s a little like going to the Emirates to watch Arsenal. The team play in red and white; they’re sponsored by Fly Emirates, the stadium slopes in a similar way and is around the same capacity.

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Eusebio statue Benfica

Eusebio da Silva Ferreira (1942-2014). Needs no introduction.

That said, the atmosphere – even when half-full – is way better than the Emirates…

 

Be sure to get a picture by the Eusebio statue. His shadow looms large over Benfica.

 

Pre-match, it’s the same as many other grounds: pretty girls pose confidently for that perfect Facebook profile shot and ask their friend to take it again…and again…until happy, while fan cam tries to get people excited to be on the big screen.

 

There’s even an eagle named Victoria that swoops around the ground pre-match. I’ve seen similar in France at OGC Nice and Crystal Palace.

 

Expect to vape passively, too. You may well find yourself sitting downwind from a man with a Bryan Ferry haircut vaping – or even smoking – all match long.

 

The quality of the game itself was poor. The Portuguese league probably suffered more than most when the restructured European competitions centralised power in England, Spain, Germany and Italy. The only name I recognised was ex-QPR stopper – and Buzz Lightyear lookalike – Julio Cesar.

 

Académica looked sharper in warm-ups than in the match itself. Benfica toyed with them, mostly through the number 10 playmaker, Argentine Nicolás Gaitán, and also through the incredible 18 year-old anchorman Renato Sanches, whose 35-yard screamer eight minutes from time had even Benfica’s sporting director Rui Costa on his feet. Sanches’ goal added to two Jonas penalties to give a fairly par 3-0 scoreline. [Continues]

 

The hardcore create an atmosphere at both ends of the ground.

The hardcore create an atmosphere at both ends of the ground.

How to get to Benfica’s Estadio da Luz

 

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The Estádio da Luz’s location reminds me a little of Villa Park’s; stuck out on a limb outside the city centre and surrounded by flyovers.

 

It’s best to stay in central Lisbon – around the Baixa area – and get the Linea Azul (Blue Line) Metro up to the Colégio Militar/Luz stop. It’s only around 20 minutes from the centre.

 

Then it’s a short walk through a shopping centre following the signs to Estádio. The ticket office – or bilhetería – is on the main drag towards the station just before an underpass that leads to the ground. It’s pretty unassuming but watch for guys pinching your arm and offering you their tickets. You can get a pretty good seat for €25 from the official vendor.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Sorry but aspects are not true in the text. First, the average of spectators in estádio da luz 2015/16 was about 51000, 12ª in european clubs. I think ir could be better mas it’s not bad. Second, Benfica has many great players, some of them not known in uk, and the proof is that reached the 1/4 finals of Champions league loosing against Bayern by 3-2 and winning in Madrid against atlético.

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