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Photos: Football Algarve

Top football teams prepare for new season in Algarve

From Portugal’s ‘Big Three’ to José Mourinho’s AS Roma and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr, there have been several top football teams choosing the Algarve for a pre-season training camp this summer. The region’s vast selection of luxury resorts offering high-level facilities – as well as a 30,000-seat stadium capable of hosting big matches – continues to woo major clubs.

The Algarve could hardly hope for a better ambassador than international football star Cristiano Ronaldo. Before joining his team’s pre-season training camp, which took place for three weeks in July, Ronaldo was photographed across the region, enjoying dinners at local restaurants or going jet-skiing with his wife Georgina Rodríguez.

But his shining endorsement of the region came later on while speaking to reporters after a friendly against local team Farense.

“The training camp is going well, we have been training well. The conditions have been great. The Algarve is, as everybody knows, a pretty place, they (his teammates) are enjoying it very much, and it’s all going well,” the 38-year-old football legend said.

His club, Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, stayed for several weeks at the brand new Pine Cliffs Resort Football Center, which was “created to meet the highest demands of professional football teams.

“We offer an outstanding location, excellent training facilities and an exclusive and personalised service. This facility is ideal for training camps and pre-season preparations of the best clubs in the world,” the resort says.

The centre features an 11-a-side FIFA standard football pitch (area: 109m x 74m), a 7-a -side football pitch (area: 60x42m), a support building including two changing rooms, one private gymnasium and a storage room for equipment.

Portugal’s biggest clubs SL Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting CP also held training camps in the region this summer, as well as the usual dark horse in Portugal’s title race, SC Braga.

Other big European teams which also booked training camps in the Algarve include José Mourinho’s AS Roma, which returned to the region for the second summer in a row, and Scottish champion Celtic FC.

Football Fields_4
Photos: Football Algarve

Several friendly matches have been played throughout the last month at Estádio do Algarve, the region’s 30,000-seat stadium built specifically for the Euro 2024. The stadium, often bereft of the big matches it was built for, hosted match-ups between some big teams, from the highly-anticipated clash between Benfica and Al Nassr to a match between Sporting CP and Real Sociedad.

João Fernandes – who at the time of speaking to the Resident was still the acting president of the Algarve tourism board (RTA) and association (ATA) before being succeeded by André Gomes on Tuesday (August 1) – has highlighted the efforts that have been made to help the Algarve become an appealing destination for football clubs.

“The establishment of the Algarve as a preferred destination for major international clubs and national teams, who choose the region for their sports training camps, is the result of progressive promotion and investment efforts that have been undertaken in recent years by various entities, both public and private, and entrepreneurs from the region,” said Fernandes.

As he explained, the Algarve has been able to “take advantage of the excellent natural conditions the destination offers,” such as it “mild climate” which allows for “training camps to be held throughout the year” as well as the “privacy and security” it offers.

“Athletes and sports teams also have a growing offer of highly diverse and high-quality infrastructures and services in the Algarve, capable of meeting the needs and standards of excellence expressed by these top professionals,” said the former tourism chief.

Fernandes also stressed that “there has been a serious and continuous commitment to this matter, enabling the region to meet a set of specific requirements, including natural grass training fields with FIFA-approved sizes, fully-equipped gyms, wellness areas, or personalised menus designed specifically for the dietary needs of athletes”.

Having world-famous stars such as Ronaldo speaking wonders of the Algarve is also expected to have an impact on the region’s continuous efforts to attract top teams.

“All the news articles that publicly announce the choice of the Algarve by these top professional teams, where some of the world’s best athletes play, add a strong contribution to our strategy and the work we have been developing. It is undoubtedly the best promotion we can have,” said Fernandes.

The Resident also spoke to Dutch businessman Erik de Vlieger, who through his real estate development company Carvoeiro Branco is currently developing Match Lagoa,  a €12 million “high-performance centre for elite teams and athletes”.

The complex, due to be built on a seven-hectare plot of land between Lagoa and Carvoeiro, will feature two outdoor hybrid football pitches, a state-of-the-art fitness facility and rehabilitation and sports science areas, as well as a 40-bedroom hotel.

“It goes without saying that it is time for the Algarve to develop into a region in which other industries have to make their entrance. The economic monoculture of the Algarve with its current touristic dependencies is very risky in the long term,” warns de Vlieger.

“Flying is becoming increasingly expensive and climate restrictions imposed on entrepreneurs and citizens are hindering traditional tourism businesses. At Carvoeiro Branco we are developing in several directions. For example, we have started an agricultural company to grow Salicornia and we are considering creating two museums,” he said.

“However, the sports industry interests us enormously. That is why we are developing Match Lagoa. The most important thing is that we can receive professional football teams 12 months a year,” the entrepreneur told us, explaining how these teams’ presence in the region helps support local businesses during the winter months.

Cascade Wellness Resort in Lagos, one of the Algarve’s main hosts of football training camps, has also commented on the region’s growing notoriety, stressing how the resort has invested in attracting more and more football teams.

“We currently have two football fields with official FIFA sizes and two half-fields, luxury accomodation, a gym, spa, multiuse rooms for meetings and press conferences, along with an experienced team and knowledge of athletes’ needs. The advantage of having access to all these services within the resorts offers the needed privacy and serenity for training camps of this importance, and are critical factors that lead many clubs to choose Cascade year after year. The flexibility of services and ability to adapt to their needs has been our brand image, which is recognised by teams that trust in us to prepare their season,” said Silvana Pombo, the resort’s general manager.

“The Algarve, thanks to its climate, gastronomy, safety and quality-price ration, has the conditions needed to host the best teams in Europe, which in the medium-term can have a relevant impact on the fight against the Algarve tourism’s seasonality,” she added.

By Michael Bruxo
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