In the next 20 days, 105 non-Portuguese footballers will have to pack up their dreams of attaining fame and fortune through national clubs and head home to an uncertain future.
Such is the medicine meted out by borders authority SEF, which revealed yesterday (Thursday) that it had found 60 clubs in the centre of the country with as many as 157 ‘illegal aliens’ on their books.
These ‘illegals’ – all aged between 18 and 25 – were in fact young hopefuls from less-privileged communities in Brazil and Africa, simply hoping for a way to show their worth.
But SEF – still smarting from the stigma of the golden visa scandal – is clearly in no mood for compromise.
The youngsters were “all without the requisite papers” and they must therefore leave the country forthwith.
Their clubs, too, now face stiff fines.
What the crackdown will mean for their future – and thus the careers of Portuguese footballers and legal aliens alike – remains to be seen.
For now, a number of the 157 have already left, reports Rádio Renascença.
Also carrying the story was Sol, whose online readers registered their reactions.
Wrote one: “What about the foreigners who live here through crime? Better keep quiet! Those ones carry guns! Cowards!” Another posed the question: “What kind of a country is this?”
Normally a country that runs football ahead of any international news, SEF is clearly trying to turn a page.
According to RR, the fines it will be handing out to the clubs in Coimbra, Aveiro, Leiria, Viseu, Guarda and Castelo Branco could run to €250,000 a pop.
Meantime, clubs in all divisions are suddenly severely depleted.
By NATASHA DONN