I have been following football for some 60 years and during that time I have seen some strange happenings. But last Sunday I witnessed, at the game between SC Olhanense and SC Farense at the José Arcanjo Stadium, Olhão, the most bizarre manifestation!
Midway through the second-half, a coffin suddenly appeared, hoisted aloft by young home supporters and adorned with a Farense football shirt. As it was paraded along the front of the main stand, bunches of dried flowers were tossed onto the coffin in a mock symbolic representation of the possible relegation of the Faro based club.
To understand the deep and bitter rivalry between these two historic clubs (their stadiums are only four kilometres apart), we must go back some years. Both clubs were founded just over a hundred years ago and for brief spells have enjoyed success at different times in their history.
Olhanense were the first team from outside Lisbon or Porto to be crowned Portuguese Champions in 1924 and reached the Portugal Cup final in 1945. Meanwhile, Farense played in the UEFA Cup against Lyon (France) 20 years ago before going bankrupt in 2005 and having to reform and work their way up from the regional leagues.
When Olhanense were relegated from the Primeira Liga two years ago, the young Farense fans staged a similar funeral march through the local streets. So it was that the Olhanense Grupo 1912 planned their retaliation. The Farense fans know that their team, who have picked up only two points from the last five games and are third from bottom (five go down this season as the league is being reduced), now have just four games to haul themselves to safety. The thought that Farense could disappear into the ignominy of non-league football was too much for many fans as they made the short journey back to Faro.