By CHRIS WRIGHT [email protected]
‘Moss the Stork’ might be the mascot of SC Olhanense but it was the ugly duckling stadium that turned into the beautiful swan last Friday night.
The refurbished José Arcanjo Stadium in Olhão was a sight for sore eyes as the magnificent floodlights were turned on to bathe the whole area in a warm ambience.
The fans turned out in their thousands to see Olhanense president Isidoro Sousa and Câmara President Francisco Leal unveil a plaque to commemorate the occasion.
Over one million euros has been invested in a facility that will enhance the town and complement the new marina development. The perimeter fencing has been removed, new roof and seating installed in the central stand and a new stand constructed opposite the main stand to bring the immaculate playing surface closer to the fans.
New hospitality boxes and a refurbished bar, with a large mural featuring many of the British supporters, are all part of creating a facility in keeping with the club’s elevation to the top flight of Portuguese football.
Isidoro Sousa welcomed everyone and promised that under manager Jorge Costa the club would be a force to reckon with. While the ground was receiving a final league inspection yesterday (Thursday) Sousa was quietly confident that there would be no problems in staging their first Premier Liga match at the stadium for 34 years.
On Sunday, Académica, from Coimbra, have the honour of being the inaugural league opposition. Kick-off is 4pm and supporters are advised to arrive early to avoid congestion. Supporters should check the club’s website www.scolhanense.com in case there is a late change of match arrangements.
As the crowd took their seats for the friendly against Belenenses from Lisbon, the storks returned to their nests to leave the arena clear for the bats to put on a flying display to equal the Benfica eagle even if it was on a much smaller scale! The game itself was an anti-climax with neither side able to penetrate their opponents defence. New signings Pietravallo, a defensive midfield Argentinian signed from New York Red Bulls, and the industrious Paulo Sergio, signed from Salamanca F.C. Spain, started well for the home side but the crowd kept their loudest applause for popular goalkeeper Bruno Verissimo as he pulled off a fantastic save towards the end of the game. It was very much a weakened Olhanense team with Castro, Ventura, Ukra, Rabiola and Tengarrinha away on international duty with the Portugal Under 21 squad while Stéphane was playing for Burkino Faso.
The British Expat Group numbers are approaching 200 and if you would like to know more about joining the club contact: Emily Richardson at [email protected] (Tel. 939 486 870) or Chris Wright at [email protected] (Tel. 916 504 903)