We are going to Lisbon…
The final day scheduled in Cortegaca began with breakfast and a training session with Carlos and Nuno. This would be the last session for the week with them and was a lighter practice that involved some agility work, finishing, 1v1s and 2v1 with 3v2 transition.
We had a tight schedule after training to eat lunch on the beach and make it out of there in time for the long trip ahead to Lisbon for the BENFICA game. It was our final lunch by the beach so the owner felt the proper send off meal was squid, chicken, rice and potatoes! The lunch was delicious however everyone was caught by the view of the ocean and decided to take some photos and stay by the water before leaving!
We said our goodbyes and began the journey to Lisbon for one of the most exciting parts of the trip, the stadio da luz. Attending the Benfica game on Saturday night was a magical experience that the boys will keep with them forever. The game was sold out with 62,958 fans in attendance and this is not “tickets sold” this is the exact entrance into the stadium. The group witnessed not just a professional soccer game but a religion that is carried out through songs, chants, tradition and a sense of belonging! The crowd adores Benfica and everything that goes with being a member of the club. The color Red, the eagle, the beer sponsor, you won’t see too many benfiquistas drinking super bock and the overall welcoming of people from all over the world into their sacred grounds and way of being.
I could go on and on about the game in terms of technical quality and synchronized movement of players in attack and defense but I want to point out the moments that I find impressive in terms of the connection to the fans.
The game was 40 minutes from kickoff and the fans were anxiously entering the stadium with many already in their seats. 10 minutes later there is a large cheer in the stadium as if a goal was scored but the game hasn’t even started yet…It didn’t take long to realize that everyone was following the score of the FC Porto game and waiting to celebrate the loss of their opening game. FC Porto is the biggest rival to Benfica in Portugal as they are the 2nd most winning team in the country after Benfica. The attention to the other game along with the reaction to their loss shows the competitiveness between the two clubs is at an all time high.
Benfica supporters are educated in the game, appreciate hard work and sacrifice for the good of the team and have the expectation to compete to win every game regardless the opponent. With that said there was a sign of compassion continuously demonstrated from the crowd when they noticed the difficulty involved in a play and a poor outcome. The reaction was a quick applaud rather than a whistle. My clearest moment of this was around the 60th minute when Benfica began a counter attack with Pizzi on the left side and Seferovic and Rafa made about a 65 yard sprint to get into the best position to finish the attack. Pizzi played a perfect ball right into the path of Seferovic who had difficulty timing his connection with the ball while in stride of running. In the end the ball traveled well wide and high of the goal and a chance went wasted. A hunched over and disappointed Seferovic was supported by the fans because his effort was incredible. They were by his side knowing he wanted the goal just as bad as the fans did! This type of response and support is earned over time when educated fans pick up the little meat details of players. It was satisfying to witness this act of kindness and support in such a tense environment when stakes are high. Seferovic did go on to score the 3rd goal of the game and you can credit a piece of that to his fans reminding him he is giving his best and another chance will come. This romantic outlook to the game is something that is a part of me when watching soccer. The smallest details can have a greater meaning to a person in soccer and life.
The game finished with a score of:
Benfica 5 – 0 Pacos de Fereirra and the celebrations continued as the fans exit the stadium chanting, signing and smiling the entire walk to the cars! No one seemed to care for the traffic or slow exits but rather took in the satisfaction of 3 points at home to start the 19/20 Primeira Liga season!
After an experience like Saturday night the schedule for Sunday mapped out as follows:
Breakfast -> Baixa Lisbon touring -> Belém Lisbon touring -> Lunch & BENFICA STADIUM AND MUSEUM TOUR -> Relax -> Dinner in downtown Lisbon -> Walking the streets of Lisbon at night eating dessert, dancing, and telling jokes on the final night of the trip.
The votes were taken and after doing both tours of the stadium and museums of Benfica and Porto the results are in; Benfica wins with 85% of the tour participants voting in favor of RED. With respect to both clubs there is so much history and the detail that goes into creating the museum and stadium to ensure there is a great meaning to the club is impressive. My personal opinion is that Benfica has a more elegant approach to their stadium and museum that is more appealing to a neutral person.
The night ended with a meeting about the week of soccer they experienced here in Portugal . They had to express their greatest moment of the week along with demonstrating an appreciation for everyone involved in the trip. The boys were a pleasure all week and impressed our coaching staff and the opposing teams staff and players. Many are looking forward to the next trip.
The boys flew back today and I’m happy to report they have landed safely and have reconnected with their parents.
Until next time Portugal 🇵🇹 ⚽️