Apparently, the British invasion of the Algarve is all the fault of Sir Cliff Richard.
According to the commentary on the bus tour, it was Cliff (as he was back then) who 'discovered' this part of the World in the early sixties, and it was his passion and indeed promotion the area that started the waves of tourists that now flock to Faro Airport by the thousands on an annual basis.
They like Cliff a lot in the Algarve, and in particular in the Albufeira area where he has a home and a vineyard. A street in the town is called Rua Sir Cliff Richard, and you don't have to walk far to see a giant cardboard cut out of the man promoting his own brand of wine.
Relations between Britain and Portugal remain strong and tourism plays a significant part in that, but events in the football arena did threaten to put a slight spanner in the works. Jose Mourinho famously danced down the touchline at Old Trafford as FC Porto dramatically ended the Champions League hopes of Manchester United, only to suddenly find himself in the hot seat at Stamford Bridge, it was going to be fun.
The 'Special One' was Marmite, some loved him, some hated him, was he the image of Portugal we really wanted to see, and was he the image that Portugal indeed wanted us to see? Again, open to debate.
But, it all really kicked off in the Summer of 2006 when England played Portugal in the Quarter Final of the World Cup. Wayne Rooney accidentally stamped on Ricardo Carvalho, it all got a bit heated and Cristiano Ronaldo stuck his oar into the proceedings and was viewed by many as being responsible for Rooney's subsequent red card. But what happened next threatened to cause an international incident, Ronaldo was captured winking towards a team mate as Rooney left the field, as though to suggest he had managed to influence the decision.
Outcry, outrage, Ronaldo must never be allowed back into the Country, and even if he did, Rooney would have the nations support to dismember him in full public view. Oh, and we lost on penalties of course.
It calmed down, as it always does, and relations to this day remain intact and indeed very strong indeed. It's a good job really, Sir Cliff's wine business would be shafted otherwise!
|The Entrance To Estadio Algarve|
On the first night of our holiday, our Thomson Rep, Angelo, conducted the standard introductory meeting. Angelo was a really nice man but also a humorous guy at the same time, and during his talk he did allude to his love of football. I had a thought, after the meeting finished I approached him and asked about the game and if he knew how to get tickets. He instantly reacted positively, it turned out he was an FC Porto season ticket holder, and he would try and get the tickets for us, but not only that, he would drive us to and from the game! He had to make some phonecalls though...
It didn't turn out to be that simple, after the two of us spent some time online, it appeared getting tickets meant a trip to a local Post Office who it also appeared were the only outlet for tickets, and then you had to be registered and have an account. Angelo took care of that though, he went out of his way on a half days holiday to sort it out, what a great thing to do.
But, while it may be a fine stadium, it is something of a white elephant. Initially it was thought Farense would use it as a home ground but as they fell on hard times it was clearly not practical for that to happen. So, it is not used as a home ground by any club sides, and isn't likely to be any time in the future. It is used for friendlies, the odd international, and for the occasional tournament, but otherwise it is an expensive 28,000 seater modern facility that is vastly underused.
|With A Temporary Feel|
|The Sun Begins To Set|
Two more goals followed in the second period as the sun set and floodlights lit up the pitch at the Algarve Stadium. It is a very impressive stadium, two large stands on either side of the pitch with arched roofs, while behind either goals were open banks of seating, albeit they did look somewhat temporary (think Gillingham!).
|The Ultras Display|
We got away with relative ease at the end, and again the talk flowed, but more about football and specifically Angelo's passion for FC Porto (his favourite all time player being Deco). We were dropped safely at our resort and bade farewell.
What a great evening, but all thanks to Angelo who went above and beyond in terms of his duties. But, we had a common bond, and that was football, and even if that did threaten to split our two nations in the Summer of 2006, our great national sports will only ever be a unifying force.
Obrigados Angelo Ribeiro, você ajudou a tornar nossas férias muito especiais!
I'm sure Sir Cliff would agree!