The demise, earlier this year, of SC Olhanense SAD – public limited sports company, 80% owned by Italian investors – could have been the death knell for this once-famous club.
Founded in 1912, the club won the Campeonato de Portugal in 1924 and, as recently as seven years ago, were doing battle with the likes of Benfica, Sporting and FC Porto in the Primeira Liga.
The rebirth of the club under the banner of SC Olhanense 1912, starting life in the Algarve District Division 2, attracted a crowd of some 3,000 supporters for their first home game in the refurbished José Arcanjo Stadium, Olhão, last Saturday.
With a brand new astroturf pitch and under the watchful eye of new president Manuel Cajuda, the team has ignited the passion of locals and expats alike.
Following their 7-2 victory away at Campinense on the first day of the season, the team clocked up another win defeating Quarteira 3-0. A brace from Januário Jesus and a third from Yaggo Gomes secured the points.
After the game, there was a real buzz of excitement in the local cafés as a wave of optimism engulfed the fans as old friendships were renewed and new ones made.
This fresh start did not go unnoticed by Ukra, a 35-year-old striker from Rio Ave who, between 2008 and 2010, played for Olhanense on loan from FC Porto, nor by Mateus Fernandes, a 19-year-old midfielder who is currently on loan from Sporting to Estoril in the Primeira Liga and who started his youth football at the Olhão club in 2010.
On social media, Ukra wrote: “How beautiful to see Olhanenses wanting to lift their club.”
A native of the city, president Manuel Cajuda, who has played and managed the club, said: “Thank you, Olhão! It is much more than a simple ‘thank you’; this comes from the heart!”
New coach Miguel Serôdio has a young and exciting squad at his disposable, including Januário Jesus, who, as a youth, trained with Sporting and SC Braga and was a Portuguese international at youth level.
Goalkeeper Tiago Maia gained 27 caps for Portugal at under-16 to under-19 levels and was part of the FC Porto squad that won the UEFA Europa League in 2010/2011.
On Sunday, SC Olhanense are away against GD Marítimo Olhanense at the Olhão Municipal Stadium, Rua Dâmaso da Encarnação (Pechão road), north of the N125. Kick-off: 6pm. Arrive early as another large crowd is expected as the phoenix rises from the ashes of the former club.
Next home game at the José Arcanjo Stadium, Olhão (behind McDonalds on EN125), is against UDR Sambrasense on October 28, kick-off 3pm.
By CHRIS WRIGHT