Nelson Évora (left) and Pedro Pichardo
Nelson Évora (left) and Pedro Pichardo

Ugly row erupts between Portugal’s triple jump stars

Portugal’s triple jump stars Nelson Évora and Pedro Pichardo have been making headlines recently due to the ugly row which has been escalating between them.

Nelson Évora, an Ivory Coast-born Portuguese triple jumper who won the gold medal for Portugal at the 2008 Olympics, has never agreed with the manner in which Cuban-born Pedro Pichardo obtained Portuguese nationality and started competing for the country less than a year after he abandoned Cuba’s national team and signed for Portuguese club SL Benfica.

While he has spoken often about this subject over the years, Évora’s latest criticism was his fiercest, with the 38-year-old claiming that the Portuguese Federation of Athletics (FPA) “bought an athlete” – in this case Pichardo – to “obtain short-term results”.

This was the last straw for Pedro Pichardo, who did not hold back and accused Évora of “disrespecting him”.

Alluding to Évora’s departure from Benfica to sign for rival Sporting in 2016, Pichardo said: “I am not a prostitute nor am I like you who left the club at odds because you were offered more (money).”

“Spending 11 years waiting for your Portuguese citizenship does not make you more Portuguese than anyone else – neither of us was born here. You say you have nothing against me, but every chance you get, you talk about Pichardo,” he said.

Pichardo also highlighted his resumé – which includes two Diamond League gold medals, an Olympic gold medal, and a World Championships gold medal – compared to Évora’s and ended his statement with a clear provocation: “I am better than you, accept it. You know it.”

The row has prompted federation and Olympic committee officials to call for ‘good sense’.

The president of the Portuguese Olympic Committee (COP) said on Tuesday he was concerned and surprised about “the escalation”.

“I am concerned about the escalation that it has reached and I hope, of course, that there is some restraint from everyone regarding what is being said,” José Manuel Constantino told Lusa. “Athletes have every right to express themselves and their views on everything that involves their sporting preparation and the sporting processes of the country. That is desirable.

“But the athletes, as well as the president of the COP, have to have some sense of responsibility and have to understand that they cannot say everything they think and have to think about what they say, considering the public repercussion that their statements have,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, FPA president Jorge Viera has refuted Évora’s accusations, calling them “shocking” and stressing that the federation has never invited an athlete from another country to become Portuguese.

He also explained why Nelson Évora had to wait 11 years to obtain Portuguese nationality when Pichardo waited less than a year.

“The law of nationality, article no.24, says there are special cases, such as athletes or others, in which candidates seeking nationality can provide services which are relevant to the Portuguese State, depending on several requirements. And none of them says you must wait 11 years. This matter is evaluated by the government, the ministry of justice and based on reports. There was a report from the federation stating that the athlete, if given nationality, could provide services for the country,” he explained.

Nelson Évora’s case was different, he added, stating that Évora was nine years old when he came to Portugal and was not eligible to obtain nationality through this law, which he said he wasn’t even sure existed at the time.

By Michael Bruxo
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