Salgueiros – 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 been the choice of football fans at the finest dining tables of European football.

Estádio do Futebol Clube do Porto are recognized as one of Europe’s finest wines.

The club currently play football at the modern Estádio do Dragão; a stadium inaugurated in 2003 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 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 outer walls. 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 – things have been less than successful for Porto’s two other football clubs.

Boavista Futebol Clube

Boavista were one of a number of clubs implicated in the Apito Dourado (Golden Whistle) refereeing scandal that struck Portuguese football in 2004. Portuguese league champions in 2001 and UEFA Cup semi-finalists in 2003, years of financial despair and alleged implication in this refereeing scandal led to an enforced relegation. 

At one point the club were playing football in the third level of the Portuguese football system.

Boavista did manage to return to the top tier for the 2014/2015 season and domestic football is still played at the compact Estádio do Bessa.

But with both Boavista and FC Porto looking established in the top flight so things at another local club SC Salgueiros is 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 you immediate notice of the one time historical Estadio Vidal Pinheiro home.

With the grassy pitch gone all that 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.  

With a small stadium that required patching up every close season and an eroding fanbase 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 just 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 local club – SC Salgueiros.

In 2002 the Porto Metro system was founded with yellow line D running between Santo Ovidio and São João Hospital.

Underground excavation problems surrounded the creation of this particular line. The land where the home stadium stood was eventually sold onto the city authorities for the purpose of expanding the new metro system.  

Key infrastructure for the metro station now stands on and underneath the former pitch.

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 football fixtures moved to the Complexo Municipal de Pedroucos in Maia some 10 miles north of Porto.

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.

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 to the city.

The local metro stop now contains a museum of images dedicated to the stadium.

The current Salgueiros club remain a shadow of the former with generations of fans now lost to the dominant FC Porto. And, while its recognized that it was the harsh reality of financial debts that led to the club folding, there are some in Porto who feel that it was the club’s location in a working class district that ultimately led to it disappearing.

Urban transport expansion took rule over the historical values of a football club.

Moreover, many felt that it was the colors and logo of Salgueiros – red shirts and white shorts and the emblem of an eagle – which ensured financial support or patronage 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.  

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.

People walk family dogs and a small five-a-side surface sees youngsters play football in FC Porto replica shirts. What paint once clung to stadia walls is slowing wearing away thanks in no small part to the abundant rainfall that falls on Porto every year.

‘Modern Football was Here’ it states in memory of the club at the back of the former terracing but even those words are fading and fast.  

And it remains to be seen if modern Portuguese football will ever return to SC Salgueiros.