By SKIP BANDELE
Liga de Honra
Portugal’s second tier returned to action with Algarve representatives Portimonense and Olhanense renewing their annual promotion challenges. The Portimão club, however, did so under highly unusual circumstances, far from home.
The Algarve Stadium, purpose-built to accommodate 30,000 spectators prior to the Euro 2004 championships, provided the venue for their opening Portimonense match against Santa Clara, while the ownership dispute over the Portimão city centre ground continues. The ongoing leadership crisis is also not yet resolved, as presidential elections originally scheduled for early August, have been cancelled due to an absence of candidates. Votes will now be cast this Sunday, with members facing a choice for the first time in the club’s 92-year history. Both previous presidents, João Sintra, who resigned during the summer, and Fernando Rocha, are expected to put their names forward.
Meanwhile, on the pitch, things did not improve, as Portimonense spurned a host of chances to eventually go down 1-0 to their visitors, now coached by former Olhão manager, Paulo Sergio. A difficult year lies ahead with the first Algarve derby set for September 10.
Olhãnense enjoyed a less troubled preparation to the season under new coach Manuel Balela, but failed to achieve more than a 1-1 draw at Gôndomar.
The old Faro club, in financial and sporting free-fall over the past six years, will only be able to dream of former Uefa Cup glory as it resumes life in the second division of the Algarve’s district league.
Debts, in the region of 12 million euros, are to be repaid over the next four years, with the proceeds from the construction of houses and shopping facilities on the site of its São Luís stadium, which will be demolished. Home matches will be played in the Algarve Stadium for the foreseeable future.