Portuguese 101

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Before I delve any deeper into the Portuguese League, I thought it may be of use to give you all an overview of how football is organised here.

Currently, there are 4 main competitions:

Portuguese League (official name: Liga Sagres)
Portuguese Cup
League Cup (official name: Carlsberg Cup)

From the 2006/2007 season on, there are just 16 teams competing in Liga Sagres and, due to that, only two teams are now relegated.

The League Cup was introduced in 2007 and it is only open for the 32 teams of the top two divisions, while the Portuguese Cup is open to the four levels of professional football, as well as the best teams from the regional championships (similar to the FA Cup and Carling Cup).

Ever since its inception in 1934/1935, the Portuguese League has been dominated by the 'Big Three' - Porto, Sporting and Benfica - and only twice have there been different champions: Belenenses in 1945/146 and Boavista in 2000/2001.

Some of you might remember Boavista famously earning a 1:1 draw at Anfield in the group stages of the Champions League, but those days are long gone.

A shadow of its former self, the financially-crippled club is hoping to be granted permission to start the new season... in the regional championship.

Another interesting fact is the high number of foreign players in Portugal.

Today, there are more foreigners than Portuguese nationals in Liga Sagres, with the vast majority being Brazilian.

The rationale is simple:

1) Portuguese and Brazilians share the same language which will make adaptation easier.

2) It is faster to get a talented player abroad than nurturing a home-grown player. That may compromise the future of some smaller clubs and affect the National team, but unfortunately, bad management is rife in Portugal.

Interestingly, contrary to what happens in countries like Spain or England, there isn’t a strong regional identity here.

90 percent of the people support one of the big three clubs, with the only real exception being Vitória Guimarães.

Therefore, attendances are high in those four clubs’ stadia and low in the others.

I’ll close this brief introduction by showing you how the different teams rank at the present time.

I am obviously just scratching the surface here, but you’ll get to know more as the blogs grows.

Tier 1 (title challengers): Porto, Sporting & Benfica
Tier 2 (European contenders): Braga, Marítimo, Nacional & Vitória Guimarães
Tier 3 (the rest): Belenenses, Paços Ferreira, Leiria, Académica, Naval, Rio Ave, Vitória Setúbal, Leixões & Olhanense.

Until next time...

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