Modern Football lived here

The city of Porto has long been known for its main global export – namely the fortified wine of Port which is produced in the surrounding Douro Valley.  Like this choice of drink for many people, so both resident clubs FC Porto and Boavista have graced the finest dining tables of European and world football.

Estádio do Futebol Clube do Porto or simply FC Porto, as they are more commonly known, are recognised as one of Europe’s most established football brands.  The club currently play football at the ultra modern Estádio do Dragão; a stadium inaugurated in 2003 towards being a host venue for the 2004 UEFA European Championships.  This new stadium sits less than 5 minutes from the former home ground of the Estádio das Antas now merely an empty shell of wasteland grass and broken terracing steps.

Success has followed FC Porto since its early days at the humble Campo da Constituição; home for the club between 1913 until 1952.   This original home still stands grand and sophisticated following years of dedicated renovation work.  The outer walls stand whitewashed and modern with the words ‘Football Club de Porto’ written across the outside wall. It all provides a fitting welcome for the hoards of young footballers who come to the location hoping to impress on trial.

Whilst FC Porto continue to invest millions in establishing themselves as a global brand – the museum at the Estádio do Dragão alone was said to have cost £12m open opening – things have been less than successful for Porto’s other two football clubs.

Boavista Futebol Clube

Boavista were one of a number of club s implicated in the Apito Dourado (Golden Whistle) refereeing scandal that first struck Portuguese football in 2004. Portuguese league champions in 2001 and UEFA Cup semi-finalists in 2003, years of financial despair and involvement in this refereeing scandal led to enforced relegation for Boavista.   At one point the club were playing football in the third level of the Portuguese football system.

Boavista did manage to return to the Primeira Liga for the 2014/2015 season and domestic games are still played at the compact Estádio do Bessa – also used as a venue for Euro 2004. The club ended the recent league season in a modest 13th place – a position seen as acceptable given the turmoil of the previous decade.

But as both Boavista and FC Porto look established in the top flight so things at another local club SC Salgueiros seem all very different.

Salgueiros – Modern Football was Here 

Located in Paranhos, a working class district that includes the sprawling Hospital de São João, Salgueiros is best known these days for being a stop on line D of the Porto Metro.  Emerging from the underground metro station on Rua Alvares Cabral a little glance to the left brings notice of its one time historical Estadio Vidal Pinheiro home.

With the grassy pitch gone all the remains is one single crumbling terracing area complete with the words ‘Modern Football Was Here’.   Behind this terrace area stands some club infrastructure still used by youth teams.

SC Salgueiros fell by the wayside in 2005 due to financial ruin.  With a small stadium that required patching up every close season and an eroding fan base Salgueiros had never been able to rejoice in the delights of European football so enjoyed by the city’s much bigger football brands.  The club appeared just once in European football back in 1991 when Cannes put paid to any hopes of progress.

Despite the regular incoming of loan players from FC Porto and even the appearance of the great Deco in a Salgueiros shirt for season 1998-99, its modest status in Porto football circles became more visible as FC Porto and the city planners became more powerful.

As the city sought to expand, so the pace of modern city planning would target the club – SC Salgueiros.  In 2002 the Porto Metro system was founded with yellow line D running between Santo Ovidio and São João Hospital.

Huge urban and underground excavation problems surrounded this particular line and the land where the home stadium stood was eventually sold onto the city authorities for the purpose of expanding the new metro system on Line D.  Key infrastructure for the metro station now stands on and underneath the former pitch although the metro stop itself is underneath the surrounding streets.

Between 2005 and 2008 there was no SC Salgueiros – its iconic club logo and red shirt seemingly gone and forgotten. But despite the impending economic crisis that was engulfing the world the club made a comeback for the 2008/2009 season as a new club – Sport Comercio Salgueiros 08.

With the new club shunted out of its historical base games moved to the Complexo Municipal de Pedroucos in Maia some 10 miles north of Porto.  Whilst this has taken the club out of the city limits the club themselves were no stranger to Maia.  Due to its modest capacity and ramshackle features many SC Salgueiros games had long been moved for television purposes to the home of FC Maia – the Estadio Prof Dr Vieira de Carvalho.

It was at this ground that Sporting Lisbon were crowned Portuguese champions in 2000.

Salgueiros are now re-established back in the league system; but the journey back to the top has been far from easy.  At the end of the 2014-15 season the club again changed its name to Sport Club Salgueiros and the team currently participates in the Campeonato Nacional de Seniores – a third tier of the Portuguese football ladder.

For many traditional Salgueiros fans it’s the loss of the once cherished Vidal Pinheiro stadium that has caused the greatest pain. Its unlikely the site can ever feature a football pitch again given the role of the metro system and the large amounts of urban redevelopment that have occurred.

The current Salgueiros club remain a shadow of the former club with generations of younger fans lost to the ever dominant FC Porto. And, while its recognised that it was the harsh reality of financial debts that led to the club folding, there are a great many in Porto who feel that it was the clubs location in a working class district that ultimately led to the club going out of business.

City planners saw local urban transport expansion taking rule over the historical virtues of the club.  Moreover, many felt that it was the colours and logo of Salgueiros – red shirts and white shorts and the emblem of an eagle – which ensured financial support for the club would never be forthcoming.

In a city where the corridors of power are decked in the blue and white of Porto, the symbolic similarities between Salgueiros and Benfica were stark.  Combined with its working class roots and the rapid progress of FC Porto as a global footballing brand, the humble SC Salgueiros folded.

Over a hundred years of Salgueiros history still remains celebrated at the former ramshackle Vidal Pinheiro home, all be it that the century of football history is captured in rather more melancholic words.  Overgrown grass that was once the pitch now sits messy and silent, the peace only broken by the rumble of metro trains on line D of the metro that run underneath.

‘Modern Football was Here’ it states in memory of the club at the back of the former terracing.  And it remains to be seen if modern Portuguese football will ever return to SC Salgueiros.

See exclusive images related to this article by clicking > here