Finally, after failing to see the Lisbon rivals - Benfica and Sporting - play each other earlier this month, we made a real effort to see a soccer game. Lisbon is big enough to have two full sized soccer stadiums: Estadio da Luz (home of Benfica) and Estadio Jose Alvalade (home of Sporting). Earlier this week, Lief and Tracy went into Lisbon to find tickets to Friday's game: Benfica vs Os Belenenses. These teams are part of the Portuguese national league: Liga Nos. The approach into the stadium was... busy.
Game day was miserable. Rainy and windy, with the rain a foggy mist hanging in the air, like being spritzed by a mister at all times. We kitted up with rain gear and off we went. The stadium was ringed with food stands, beer sellers, souvenir vendors and Benfica swag. Festive and electric atmosphere. Fortunately, our seats were covered by the half dome of the stadium, so we were able to stay out of the wet.
Interestingly, their mascot is a bald eagle, and the games begin with the eagle soaring over the stadium. It's quite surreal, since we're so used to eagles flying around their natural environment, which is not in a stadium, not in Lisbon, and not in Europe. We wonder if it's happy. Certainly it is very likely to be well fed and adored by a lot of Portuguese, probably more than any eagle on Haida Gwaii.
Next up was the game. The best part was the energy of the crowd, a sea of red scarfs and excited fans. From the first 5 minutes, there were back to back team songs being sung nearly constantly. Each Euro soccer team has its own pantheon of songs. The game actually began with the Benfica anthem. The song, we learn, is Ser Benfiquista, and a diehard fan is called a benfiquista. You can watch a stadium full of benfiquistas singing their song of devotion here. Our experience wasn't quite so dramatic (stadium was 2/3 full), since we didn't know what the heck was going on and the crowd size was a lot smaller. Thank you to iPhone voice memos.
The game was awesomely skillful. The boys were mesmerized. The final score was 3-2, for Benfica. The boys shot lots of video. Of course, we cheered for the home team, in part because we've never heard of Os Belenenses; in part because it would have been dangerous to cheer for the away team (seriously, we were told this). We found out the next day that it's actually another team from Lisbon! The least favourite of the teams from this city, the underdog. Poor Os Belenenses...
For those true soccer fans interested in seeing the highlights of the game, edited and presented in a far more interesting manner than we can, have a look at youtube's:
And then, there was the ride home. There's next to no parking around the stadium, so people here use the Metro and train. Tracy spent some time explaining the concept of a "pickpocket" to the boys. Innocence lost.