Vilamoura XV Rugby Club started its first season in Group B of the Portuguese Rugby Federation’s National First Division this month and fans living in the region have already watched them thrash RC Montemor by 29 to 7, and, most recently, AA Utad by a convincing 39 to 7.
The team moved to Group B after finishing fourth in the 2002/2003 Championship – a remarkable achievement given the fact that the players are all amateurs. “They play for us because they love this club and we have real team spirit here,” explains Jorge Periera, one of the directors. In spite of their amateur status, the players show real talent on the field. “They’re impressive,” one on-looker commented as he watched the game against AA Utad. “Great passing and really tight defence.” Some credit this teamwork to the new coaching set-up at the club, where Paul Cottrell has made way for Portuguese coach José Xarepe. “We learnt a lot from Paul,” Jorge says, “now we are building on his good work.”
The fact that the players gel so well together is even more of an achievement given the mix of nationalities on the team. “We have English, Moldavians and, of course, Portuguese players on the squad, some of whom have already turned out for their national teams.”
Despite their success on the field, Vilamoura XV are not planning to make the move up into ‘A group’ at the top of the division just yet. “Even if it looks as if we will be promoted, we will not go for another few years,” Jorge explained. “There is a huge difference between the two groups. ‘A’ teams like Benfica pay professional players and are at a different level to us. We want to take it slowly and steadily. If we got promoted now, it would not be the right time for us.”
The huge gap between the two Division One groups is not just of professional players, but also of finances. “We rely totally on sponsorship, such as that of Browns Sport and Leisure Club, and private donations to keep us going,” Jorge said. “An away game can cost us up to 1,500 euros when you consider we have to pay for everyone’s hotels, meals and so on.”
An important part of the club’s fund raising comes from members supporting the club. Membership costs 25 euros a year for adults and 15 euros a year for children under 17. In return members get a t-shirt and a 10 per cent discount on drinks at the clubhouse.
The players practise three times a week in the Complexo Desportivo de Vilamoura and relax afterwards in the wooden clubhouse, donated by Interhold. The clubhouse is also the centre of the social side of the club. “We always have a big party after home matches. Once the game is over, everyone from both sides gets together to enjoy a beer and talk about the game. It’s an important part of the atmosphere of the club and the sport!” says Jorge.
So why not support the team by watching a match and enjoying a beer with the Vilamoura XV? For more information call Jorge on 964 153 826.
6 November: Vilamoura XV v RC Évora
27 November: Vilamoura XV v Arcos de Valdevez
4 December: Vilamoura XV v RC Montemor
18 December: Vilamoura XV v Técnico
8 January 2005: Vilamoura XV v Caldas RC
22 January 2005: Vilamoura XV v RC Lousã