Posted: 2/24/2009


        Flying into Porto Airport I just had time to grab a cab for the 15 minute journey to Matosinhos, a small fishing town and suburb of Porto and arrive at kick-off time for an intriguing  Liga Sangres match between hosts Leixoes SC, The Sea Horses, who are 4th, and 16th and bottom place OS Belenenses, which translates as The Ones From Belen, a suburb of Lisbon.

        Leixoes SC were founded in 1907 and also have boxing, baseball, karate, volleyball, swimming and billiards sections. They were in the second Division for 17 years until getting back up to the top league in 2007. They are close behind the three major clubs, CF Porto, Sporting Lisbon and Benfica who have won all 72 league titles in history, bar one each from Belenenses and Boavista. The stadium is said to hold 16,000 but that's not believable, and I estimated about 4,000 were on hand tonight, about half full. Keep up this pace and Leixoes will play in Europe next season.

      They start 7 Portuguese, 3 Brazilians and one Colombian. Of the 22 starters on both sides, only 4 are white, yet on the streets the ratio of white to black is at least 100 to 1.  The best player on show in my opinion is the hard working  Laranjeiro, left back for the red and white stripes of the hosts. The all blue visitors prove the more skillful, or make less mistakes, and twice take the lead until a late equalizer deep in the second half salvages a point for the Sea Horses. A regular fan tells me that despite beating the 3 clubs above them they are a selling club from a small town and need funds, and a few of the better players will be off at the end of the season.

       Across the aisle is a crazy woman in her mid 20s screaming, spitting, ranting, raving, singing, chanting, abusing the opposition and the referee CONTINUOUSLY, and dressed in white slacks and red and white top and scarf. Another fan, much quieter, is wearing Arab robes and head dress, with black sweep around sun glasses and a grey beard, and has a dazzling coat of many colours.

      Many fans are wearing replica shirts with ROBERTO on the back, a Brazilian who isn't brought on until the last 10 minutes. I can see why. He is fat, slow and up front jumps like a white man, and is totally useless. About the same time Belenenses bring on a sub called PELE. He is black, but there the similarity with the Great One ends. There is no programme but I am handed a team sheet with the players, coaches, fitness team, Presidents names, Delegados for Doping and Delegados for Arbitros and Delegados from Da Liga P.F.P.

      Despite still having my walk-on luggage with me, I wheel it 300 metres to the spanking new METRO station for a quick trip to downtown Porto after the final whistle.  My carriage is full of white robbed angels with halos, plus some dressed as devils and transvestites. It's 11.00 pm and the warmest night I have experienced in Europe for 6 months. In the old town near the university the squares and streets are full as students in fancy dress spill out of the clubs and bars, for this is CARNAVAL time.