Football in Portugal

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Football in Portugal
Country Portugal
Governing body Portuguese Football Federation
National team men's national team
National competitions
Club competitions
International competitions
Football fans at the Estádio da Luz

Association football (Portuguese: futebol), the most popular sport in Portugal, has a long and storied history in Portugal, following its 1875 introduction in cities like Funchal, Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra by Portuguese students arriving back home from studying in England as well as English merchants, culminated in the establishment of local clubs dedicated to the practice of the sport. Initially, football was played by clubs on a neighbourhood rivalry basis but soon enough, city wide or regional tournaments started to take place around the country. Soon after the beginning of the 20th century, the need to establish which club was the best in Portugal, culminated with the organizing of the "Campeonato de Portugal" with bragging rights going mostly to Lisbon and Porto clubs. The top domestic league, the Primeira Liga, was founded in 1934 and is home to internationally successful clubs such as S.L. Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting CP, the "Big Three" who usually dominate the league. The measure of success by Portuguese clubs in the international arena, is as follows; UEFA Champions League (the most prestigious club competition in European football) four times, the UEFA Europa League (UEFA Cup) twice, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (European Cup Winners' Cup) once, the UEFA Intertoto Cup once, the UEFA Super Cup (European Super Cup) once and the Intercontinental Cup twice.

Football has been the most popular sport in Portugal for many decades and in the 2011–12 Primeira Liga season Benfica had an average attendance of 38,029 people, Porto 34,843 and Sporting 30,638 with the season overall having an average attendance of 10,958 and a total attendance of 2,629,950.

Over the years, internationally lauded players such as Eusébio, Paulo Futre, Luís Figo, Rui Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo have played for the Portugal national football team. Despite Portugal producing such great players, internationally at senior level, Portugal have been under achievers in stark contrast to the youth squads that have won just about every European and World titles available. At the highest level, Portugal was third in the FIFA 1966 World Cup and fourth in the 2006 World Cup. The country hosted the UEFA Euro 2004, where they were runners-up to Greece. Then, A Selecção were semi-finalists in Euro 1984, Euro 2000 and Euro 2012. Twelve years later, Portugal won their first major title, the Euro 2016, beating host nation France.


Monument in Camacha, celebrating the first ever organised football game in Portugal

Football started to gain popularity in Portugal in the late 19th century, brought by Portuguese students who returned from England.[1]

The first organized game in the country took place in 1875 in Camacha, Madeira, organized by Madeira-born Harry Hinton, who brought a football from England where he was studying. Popularity quickly spread across the island. Harry would go on to become honorary president of C.S. Marítimo.[2] [3]

The person responsible for its spread in mainland Portugal was Guilherme Pinto Basto (according to some people, his brothers Eduardo and Frederico brought the ball from England). He organized an exhibition in October 1888 and a match in January 1889. The match, played where today's Campo Pequeno bullring is located, involved opposing teams from Portugal and England. Portugal won the match 2–1. Consequently, football started attracting the attention of high society, distinguished by the Luso-British rivalry.

The game reached colleges and led to clubs across the country. By century's end, associations such as Clube Lisbonense, Carcavelos Sport Club, Braço de Prata, Real Ginásio Clube Português, Estrela Futebol Clube, Futebol Académico, Campo de Ourique, Oporto Cricket, and Sport Clube Vianense had been founded.

The first domestic match, between Lisbon and Porto, took place in 1894, attended by King Carlos.

Clube Internacional de Futebol (founded in 1902) was the first Portuguese club to play abroad, defeating Madrid Fútbol Clube in 1907 in Madrid.

On 31 March 1914, the three regional associations that existed in Portugal (Lisbon, Portalegre and Porto) merged to create a national association called a União Portuguesa de Futebol, the predecessor of the current national association, the Portuguese Football Federation, which was formed on 28 May 1926.

The Portuguese enthusiasm for football led to the spread of the sport into it's former overseas colonies of Angola, Mozambique, Guiné-Bissau, Cape Verde, S. Tomé and Principe, Goa, Macau and East-Timor. Many top players from the former colonies have represented Portugal at international level, as well as playing for many clubs in the various tiers of the national and international leagues, most notably in the past the likes of Fernando Peyroteo, Matateu, Costa Pereira, Coluna, Eusébio and Abel Xavier.

Club football[edit]

The main domestic football competition is the Primeira Liga. The dominant teams are S.L. Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting CP.

Some of the oldest clubs still in existence are Académica de Coimbra, which was founded in 1876 and Naval 1° de Maio of Figueira da Foz founded in 1893. Other historical and notable clubs are F.C. Porto, after an unsuccessful attempt in 1893 (the current foundation date), reappeared in 1906. Boavista F.C. was founded in 1903. S.L. Benfica was born as the result of the fusion in 1908 between Sport Lisboa, founded in 1904, and Grupo Sport Benfica, founded in 1906; the club maintained the foundation date of Sport Lisboa. Sporting CP was founded in 1906. Leixões S.C. founded in 1907, Vitória F.C. of Setúbal plus C.S. Marítimo and C.D. Nacional both of Madeira all founded in 1910, S.C. Olhanense in 1912, S.C. Espinho, Portimonense S.C. and Académico de Viseu F.C. all founded in 1914, C.F. Os Belenenses was founded in 1919. The success of these earlier clubs inspired the rapid spread of football to all corners of Portugal. After the end of World War I, the sprouting of football clubs all over the country gained momentum and in the 1920s S.C. Braga, Guimarães, Gil Vicente and S.C. Beira Mar among many others where founded, further asserting the popularity of the sport where ever it was played with stadiums filled to maximum capacity. By then, the local talent wanting to always better the opposition, further improved the quality of the players training and tactical strategy awareness by investing and importing top foreign coaching and managerial staff from abroad, resulting in the refinement and improvement of the local game quality being able to stand up to top international levels. Some early clubs from the late 1800s and early 1900s, like Carcavelinhos, for example, did not survive and either merged with other clubs or become extinct altogether.

List of teams (2015–16 season)[edit]

Conventional name UEFA short name Official name Location
Académica de Coimbra A.Académica de Coimbra Associação Académica de Coimbra Coimbra
Arouca FC Arouca Futebol Clube de Arouca Arouca
Belenenses CF Os Belenenses Clube de Futebol Os Belenenses Lisbon
Benfica S.L. Benfica Sport Lisboa e Benfica Lisbon
Boavista Boavista F.C. Boavista Futebol Clube Porto
Braga or
Sporting de Braga
S.C. Braga Sporting Clube de Braga Braga
Estoril or
GD Estoril-Praia Grupo Desportivo Estoril-Praia Estoril
Marítimo C.S. Marítimo Club Sport Marítimo Funchal,
Moreirense Moreirense FC Moreirense Futebol Clube Moreira de Cónegos
Nacional or
Nacional da Madeira
CD Nacional Clube Desportivo Nacional Funchal,
Paços de Ferreira F.C. Paços de Ferreira Futebol Clube Paços de Ferreira Paços de Ferreira
Porto FC Porto Futebol Clube do Porto Porto
Rio Ave Rio Ave F.C. Rio Ave Futebol Clube Vila do Conde
Sporting CP Sporting
Clube de Portugal
Sporting Clube de Portugal Lisbon
Tondela CD Tondela Clube Desportivo de Tondela Tondela
União or
União da Madeira
CF União Clube de Futebol União Funchal,
Madeira Islands
Vitória de Setúbal or
Vitória FC Vitória Futebol Clube Setúbal
Vitória de Guimarães or
Vitória SC Vitória Sport Clube Guimarães


List of teams by major honours[edit]

Below is listed every team to have won any of the major domestic competitions (organized by LPFP and FPF) and international trophies (organized by UEFA and FIFA).

Rank Club PL CP TP TL ST CL EL UCWC UIC USC IC Total Last honour
1 Benfica 36 3 26 7 7 2 - - - - - 81 2017 Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira
2 Porto 27 4 16 - 20 2 2 - - 1 2 74 2013 Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira
3 Sporting CP 18 4 16 1 8 - - 1 - - - 48 2017–18 Taça da Liga
4 Boavista 1 - 5 - 3 - - - - - - 9 2000–01 Primeira Liga
5 Belenenses 1 3 3 - - - - - - - - 7 1988–89 Taça de Portugal
6 Vitória de Setúbal - - 3 1 - - - - - - - 4 2007–08 Taça da Liga
6 Braga - - 2 1 - - - - 1 - - 4 2015–16 Taça de Portugal
8 Académica - - 2 - - - - - - - - 2 2011–12 Taça de Portugal
8 Vitória de Guimarães - - 1 - 1 - - - - - - 2 2012–13 Taça de Portugal
10 Olhanense - 1 - - - - - - - - - 1 1923–24 Campeonato de Portugal
10 Marítimo - 1 - - - - - - - - - 1 1925–26 Campeonato de Portugal
10 Carcavelinhos[5] - 1 - - - - - - - - - 1 1927–28 Campeonato de Portugal
10 Leixões - - 1 - - - - - - - - 1 1960–61 Taça de Portugal
10 Estrela da Amadora - - 1 - - - - - - - - 1 1989–90 Taça de Portugal
10 Beira-Mar - - 1 - - - - - - - - 1 1998–99 Taça de Portugal
10 Moreirense - - - 1 - - - - - - - 1 2016–17 Taça da Liga

National team[edit]

Portuguese football fans supporting the Portugal national team

As of 26 May 2010, the Portugal was ranked third in FIFA world ranking, their highest ever. Their lowest rank was 43rd overall in 1998.

Portugal hosted UEFA Euro 2004, but were upset by champions Greece in the final. Portugal reached the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup twice, in 1966, when Eusébio was the top scorer with nine goals; and in 2006, led by Cristiano Ronaldo and Luís Figo.

All players of the "golden generation" have retired. Led by manager Fernando Santos, Portugal won Euro 2016, defeating hosts France in the final, 1–0.[7]

Stadiums in Portugal
Estádio da Luz
Capacity: 65,647
Estádio do Dragão
Capacity: 50,948
Estádio José Alvalade
Capacity: 50,466
Estádio Nacional
Capacity: 37,593
Estádio Municipal de Aveiro
Capacity: 30,498

Portugal also participates to the Lusophony Games and takes part in its football tournaments. In 2014, Portugal was one of the eight nations to take part in the first Unity World Cup.


  1. ^ Football Bible. "Portuguese football | Portugal soccer league, clubs, players, history". Retrieved 2017-03-23. 
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-14. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  3. ^ "Camacha". 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2017-03-23. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ Carcavelinhos is an extinct club. It merged with União de Lisboa in 1942, resulting in Atlético de Portugal.
  6. ^ From 1922 to 1938, the Portuguese champion was determined in a knock-out competition called Campeonato de Portugal (Championship of Portugal).
  7. ^ "Portugal 1-0 France (AET)". BBC. 11 July 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2017.