Algarve football village (finally) moves forward in Bensafrim

Match Algarve – the €115 million state-of-the-art football village planned for the countryside near Bensafrim – is finally free to move forwards after a 20-year wait for the approval of Lagos’ municipal plan (PDM).

Although there had been talk last year of opening in 2016, plans hit yet another hurdle and are now unlikely to come to fruition before the next few years.

The project’s main developer and the owner of the land, Dutch businessman Erik de Vlieger, told Jornal Barlavento that so much time has passed now that he “doesn’t want to rush things”.

Also behind the renovation of Portimão’s iconic ‘Mabor’ building, de Vlieger explained:

“I want to work on it peacefully, there’s a lot of money at stake.”

The plan for a world-class football village was first mooted by legendary football manager Sven Goran Eriksson – but Lagos’ failure to approve its PDM got in the way.

Nonetheless, interest has always remained high. “In 2008 I had talks with the Russian football association and Chelsea and they kept asking me when the football centre would be completed,” said de Vlieger.

“In 2010, I gave up talking about it. I was tired,” he added, admitting that he came close to ditching the plan altogether and simply building himself a new house.

Thus when de Vlieger heard that Lagos’ new PDM was up and running, he couldn’t believe it.

“I was shocked,” he told JB.

Now, the plan is to find a business partner and get the project finally off the ground.

The masterplan is to create a luxury centre on the 610-hectare plot that attracts sports-related business 12-months a year.

Along with the central football complex – which will include an athletics track and a capacity for 2,000 people – Match Algarve will have an additional eight football/rugby fields with private accommodation, eight tennis courts, a grass-covered training pitch and swimming pool, as well as a 36-hole ‘footgolf’ course – a new sport that is fast catching on.

There will also be physical maintenance circuits as well as a high-performance training facility and off-road bike trails.

Match Algarve will also be equipped with a quality medical centre – one of the many attractions designed to give it year-round appeal – boasting an advanced-technology gym and spa.

“Big football teams will come in the winter and the summer. But in between those seasons, we have to make it attractive for tourism as this should be an annual business,” de Vlieger explained.

The cherry on the cake is the VIP hotel, with a commercial area, high-quality restaurants and a fully-equipped congress centre, as well as 25 luxury villas.

One of the few changes to the original plan is the decision to keep part of the land as it is, “protecting it as a natural reserve”.

Erik de Vlieger recently had his name linked to another major deal in the Algarve, taking over the well-established Carvoeiro resort Quinta do Paraíso alongside Andreas Stocker (click here).

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com

Photo: Dutch businessman Erik de Vlieger

Photo by: ANA SOFIA VARELA/OPEN MEDIA GROUP