Filling in the missing pieces

Dear Editor

Football fans may well know of the untimely death of Benfica player Luciano who was electrocuted in the club’s hydro-massage bath back in 1966. I was recently able to add another piece to the jigsaw surrounding the great Benfica team of the 60s through a visit to a dentist in Tavira.

But let us begin back in 1964 after The Eagles had won the European Cup twice, the second time ending the stranglehold that Real Madrid had on the trophy. A packed Estádio Padinha in Olhão (where the shopping centre now stands) witnessed a remarkable game between SC Olhanense and Benfica on a dirt pitch which was the norm, in those days, for football teams outside the great cities of Lisbon and Porto.

A young Olhanense defender by the name of Luciano Jorge Fernandes had an outstanding game and his efforts played a major part in keeping the score to 1-0 in favour of the Eagles. A remarkable achievement given that the forward line of José Torres, José Augusto and the greatest player of his era Eusébio had scored 103 goals in just 26 league matches.

Luciano was signed by the Lisbon club but on December 5, 1966 tragedy was to strike as he and six other players were using the club’s hydro-massage bath. An electrical fault resulted in Luciano being killed instantly whilst the other players including Eusébio survived thanks to the action of Malta da Silva who managed to get to the power supply and switch it off.

The front page of The Times next day quoted one of the survivors, Domiciano Cavém, who was born in Vila Real de Santo António. “We were in the bath when we felt a paralysing electric shock which appeared to come from an underwater massage apparatus.”

So it was that last month I needed some dental work done and visited EcoDenta practice in Tavira. After my treatment I enquired of the young dentist whether she supported Benfica or Sporting Lisbon. “Benfica!” came the resounding response from Melissa Cavém who it transpired is the niece of Domiciano Cavém!

She proceeded to show me photos of her uncle and I was able to give her a facsimile of the front page of The Times from nearly 50 years ago. So it was that my broken tooth enabled me to fill in another piece of the jigsaw as I research the impact that the Algarve has had on Portuguese football.

Chris Wright