Check out the famous clubs, finest players, and the history of soccer in Portugal
In Portugal, football started getting popular in the late 19th century and was brought by Portuguese student who returned from England. The first ever football game to be played on mainland Portugal took place in January 1989 between Portugal and England where Portugal won the game 2-1. The first Portuguese team to play abroad was Clube International de Futebol, which was founded in 1902. This club won the first international game away to Madrid Fútbol Clube in Madrid. Football in Portugal is controlled by the Portuguese Football Federation, which was formed in 1914.
Portuguese football league system
Portuguese football leagues system is divided into several levels with the top 16 teams playing in the Primeira Liga in the first division. The second level known as Liga de Honra is a national wide league and contains 16 clubs and is also in the first division. The third level is known as Portuguese second division and consists of the sub-divisions: Serie Norte, Serie Cenrto, and Serie Sul. The forth level is classified as Portuguese third division and consists of Serie A, B, C, D, E, F, Serie Azores and Serie Madeira.
Portuguese football clubs
Portuguese football consists of 32 teams in the professional divisions (Primeira Liga and Liga de Honra), 56 teams in the second division, 84 in the third division and many others in the district divisions. FC Porto and Benfica are among the most popular and successful clubs in Portugal. FC Porto comes from the northern part of the country and is the most successful Portuguese club in international competition winning 7 titles. Domestically it has 63 titles, which includes 25 Primeira Liga titles with a historic 5 records back to back titles. FC Porto won its first European cup in the 1986-87 league and UEFA Champions league in the 2003-04, where they beat Monaco from France 3-0. The most recent international trophy won by FC Porto is the Europa League cup in 2010-11 competition.
Benfica is sometimes known as Benfica Lisbon since it is based in Lisbon. It was founded in 1904 in Lisbon. Benfica supporters known as Benfiquistas are estimated to be more than 14 million, making Benfica to have a Guinness World Record of soccer club with most members in the world in November 2006. Benfica has won 32 Primeira Liga titles and 27 championship of Portuguese cup. Internationally, they have won European Cup twice in the 1960-61 and 1961-62 competition.
Portuguese national football team
Portuguese national football team is controlled by the Portuguese Football Federation. The first appearance of the Portuguese national team in the FIFA world cup was in 1966, where they reached the semi-finals, losing to the eventual champions England. Since then, the team has participated in the 1986, 2002, 2006 and 2010 world cups; reaching the semifinals in the 2006 event.
Portuguese greatest footballers
Among the greatest soccer players in Portugal is Cristiano Ronaldo, popularly known as CR7. Born in February 5th 1987, Ronaldo is among the most popular and best player in the world. He plays as a winger currently in Real Madrid club of Spain. Ronaldo's move from Manchester United in 2009, was a historic one, which cost £80 million equivalent to 132 million US dollars, making him the most expensive player in football history. Ronaldo was the top scorer in the 2010-11 Spanish league.
Another world class Portuguese footballer is Luis Figo, who was born in 4th November 1972. Figo played as a midfielder for Sporting CP, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, before retiring in Internazionale club in 2009. Figo was named the European Footballer of the year in 2000 and the 2001 FIFA World Player of the year. He won 127 caps for his national team during his football career. He scored 32 goals for Portuguese National team, and 91 club goals.
The true legend of Portuguese football remain Eusebio, top player of Benfica and the national team of the 1960s. Eusebio was an astonishing striker, he scored 41 goals in 64 appearances with the Portuguese national team and a phenomenal 317 goals in 301 games in Primeira Liga with Benfica. Eusebio won the European Footballer of the year (Ballon d'Or) in 1965.
Ricardo Carvalho is another popular Portuguese footballer. He plays as a defender for his team. He was named as UEFA Club Best Defender in 2001. Other great Portuguese footballers include; Luis Carlos Almeida popularly known as Nani of Manchester United, Anderson Luis de Souza also known as Deco among others.
Portuguese football stadiums
There are many football stadiums in Portugal. Estádio da Luz commonly translated as the stadium of light, is the biggest stadium with a capacity of 65,400. It is located in Lisbon, and is the home for Benfica. This stadium hosted several matches in 2004 European championship including the finals. Initially the stadium was the largest stadium in the world with a capacity of 120,000 seats, before it was demolished and the new one with 65,000 seats capacity was built. The old one was opened in 1954 and was still known as Estádio da Luz. Benfica has won against England clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United in this stadium.
Estádio do Dragão translated as Dragon Stadium in English, is the second biggest stadium in Portugal and is the home ground of FC Porto. It has a capacity of 50,399 seats and was inaugurated on November 16, 2003, replacing the old venue Antas Stadium. The inauguration match was against FC Barcelona of Spain and it also featured the debut of Lionel Messi in Barcelona side. Porto won 2-0 with Hugo Almeida and Derlei scoring. This stadium was among the hosts of UEFA Euro 2004. Other famous stadiums in Portugal include: Estádio Nacional which is the home ground of the Portuguese national team, Estádio do Restelo, Estádio Algarve, Estádio Cidade de Coimbra among others. There are approximately 48 stadiums in Portugal.