By David Lewis [email protected]
David Lewis lives in Praia da Luz with his wife Shirley, and two children, Ollie and Fraser. Having spent more than 25 years in the City of London, he is now Financial Services Manager with the Oceânico Group.
In case you hadn’t already noticed, the new football season is well underway back in the UK. Every week from now through to next summer, hordes of hopeful fans will flock through the turnstiles, happy to pay exorbitant ticket prices in order to keep their superstars in the luxury to which they have become accustomed.
The joy of the modern football age, of course, is that no longer do you need to wrap up against the elements to support your local side. Nowadays, with a plethora of satellite and cable-based channels vying for your hard-earned cash, it is almost possible to watch football on a daily basis, should you be that way inclined.
Alternatively, you may choose to simply get a life, it’s up to you.
Actually, I am as appreciative of a good game of footie as the next man but I do feel that the amount of the stuff available on TV has somewhat taken the edge off what, in my childhood at least, was a special treat. I was brought up in the East End of London (it doesn’t make me a bad person) and can still remember the thrill of being taken to the big match – Millwall versus Charlton – in the days when an impressionable 10 year old could visit a 60,000 capacity stadium (no seats, mind you) to watch a Division 1 game without fear of mortal danger.
In fact, in those days, the only real concern was whether you would develop food poisoning from the slightly undercooked meat pie at half-time, or whether the urchin standing behind you would choose to dampen the back of your leg with an emergency wee.
So, when our boys reached the age when a proud Dad should be able to initiate them into the world of live football, I always felt unwilling to do so. First of all, there was the cost involved. More importantly, however, I wanted them exposed neither to the impending sense of threat that always seems to surround a game in Britain, nor to the foul language that seems to be synonymous with modern football (players AND fans alike).
When we first came over to Portugal, however, that all changed when I had the privilege to meet one of my new colleagues at Oceânico. Dan (or Dani, as his fans know him) is a local lad who does a great job for us looking after our many clients. In his spare time, however, he is the mainstay of our local team, Odiáxere, and spends his weekends travelling up and down the Algarve bamboozling defenders and scoring goals of such quality, even Ronaldo would be impressed.
When one afternoon, I asked Ollie and Fraser if they would like to go and “watch Dani playing football”, they readily agreed. And so off we went.
What a revelation.
This is good, old-fashioned family football entertainment just as I used to remember it. Firstly, entry is free (Ok, games in my childhood were never actually free, but I was just 10 after all. It certainly felt free). Secondly, the entire crowd (and numbers can get up to 4-500 for crunch games) are a great mix of young guys, old fellas with flat caps, Mums with pushchairs, toddlers and babies, older ladies with knitting and, of course, me and my boys all sitting (yes, sitting) enjoying competitive and entertaining sport.
There is nearly always a small café open to serve anything from a warming bica in the winter, to cold drinks, farturas (deep fried dough snack covered in sugar, usually available at fairs in Portugal) and steak butties. Not a flaccid pie to be found.
With the crowd comprised almost entirely of locals, it’s a really wonderful way to meet people and visit new places that we wouldn’t otherwise have seen.
Our youngest boy (Fraser, age 7) has become Dani’s biggest fan, to the point that, having secured promotion last season in the most dramatic fashion – winning our last game to take the final promotion spot – Dani kindly presented Fraser with his signed football boot which, to his Mother’s disappointment, now sits permanently and proudly on his bedside cabinet.
So, thanks to our move to Portugal, you will see the three of us heading off every Saturday afternoon, rucksack full of sweeties and drinks to tide us over until half-time, to one village or the other, supporting our local team. And not a damp leg in sight.