After the glamour of Estadio da Luz on Friday evening I took the 3 /12 hour express train from Estacio Oriente in Lisboa, one of the the most handsome stations in Europe, back to Faro, capital city of the Algarve.
The Hotel Sol Algarve, two blocks from the station in Faro had been recommended and was a wise and friendly choice. I just had the chance to check in when Jose the owner and his staff drew directions on the map for Estadio de Sao Luis in the centre of town. It was a 15 minute walk, although I got lost on the return and spent 45 minutes and asked many times along the way. www.fpf.pt.
SC Farense have had a chequered history since 1910 and had spent 23 seasons on and off in the top flight but a couple of seasons ago found themselves in the Seconde Divison Zona Sul, third tier, south. Eighteen years ago they had lost home and away 1-0 to Olympique Lyonnaise and a decade ago had players such as Bruno Alves on their books.
After Estadio Algarve was built for EURO 2004 hosting Spain, Greece, Russia, Holland and Sweden in its 30,000 capacity it was sparsely used, being 5-6 km out in the scrub. In fact this Tuesday Gibraltar, the newest member of UEFA, will play their very first international against Slovakia in Estadio Algarve, while their own home stadium is renovated to UEFA standards.
Obviously, for political reasons they are not welcomed in closer Spanish venues. Sao Luis has a capacity of 15,000, and a much better location, and has recently been upgraded and is a pleasant facility. About 1,500 fans showed up for the 7.00pm kick off on a bittererly cold evening to watch The Lions of Faro-Leoes de Faro. www.scfarense.pt.
Their Liga de Honra opponents were UD Oliverense from way up north in Oporto Province, and brought no fans with them. Well, actually the referee Manuel Olivera had flown down from Porto. He and his two assistants had immaculate thick black hair- no shaved heads- so FIFA probably won't promote them! They were a class act and totally in control.
At one end The South Side Boys, about 200 young men and women, had erected huge banners, lit red flares, sang throughout, and jumped up and down, sideways and every direction. At least they kept warm and had plenty to shout about from the kick-off.
Farense wore white and black to their opponents all red, and the star of the show was RAMBE, aka Ramilton Jorge Santos Rosario--which of course couldn't fit on his jersey!. The 24 year old is on loan from Belenenses in Lisboa and is a native of Sao Vicente in Cape Verde and he has 5 international caps.
He was all Action Man and opened the scoring in the 15th minute, while team mate Adelaja made it 2-0 ten minutes later. Rambe scored twice late in the second half, in the 80th and 89th minute, and also missed a penalty. He got a yellow card for taking his jersey off after the third goal and jumping into the welcoming arms of The South Side Boys. In the 22 team league they are now in 14th place, three higher than their opponents.
Saturday morning I wheeled my bag along the cobbled stone streets to the station near the harbour to await the airport bus. Seeing my colourful red, green, blue and yellow scarf from the match in Lisbon, 5 guys sitting at a table on the sidewalk greeted me. Michael and his 4 mates had just got off work-it was 9.00am - and they ran a night club.
They offered me a local Super Bock beer and a Bifana, a delicious typical Portuguese pork sandwich, and were really friendly and I took photos. They knew all about English football and reeled of the famous Leeds United players names from a decade ago. We had a nice chat before I took off for Faro Airport and the three hour flight home on Jet2.