THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Twelve teams in the fourth tier are refusing to play Canelas 2010, whose squad includes Os Super Dragões leader Fernando Madureira

15 November ~ As the Portuguese Liga settles down to a more-or-less predictable procession with Benfica out in front, it’s a story from the lower divisions that’s sharing the sports headlines. In the district league administered by the Porto FA, the fourth-tier Divisão de Elite, 12 of the 14 clubs involved have refused to play against a team from Vila Nova de Gaia, across the River Douro from the city of Porto.

The 12 have cited "a climate of terror and intimidation" on and off the pitch in games against Canelas 2010, as well as constant pressure on match officials. This isn’t the first time Canelas have been accused of violence; in February, the Porto FA decided to allocate three observers to their games, while it was reported that 90 per cent of the district’s referees had made themselves unavailable for matches involving the club.

The story might only have made it to the margins of page 28 but for the fact that the Canelas squad includes several members of the main FC Porto ultras group or claque, Os Super Dragões, including notorious leader Fernando Madureira, aka Macaco (Monkey).

The claque have a lot of influence at FC Porto. They served as a kind of Praetorian Guard for FCP president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa during corruption hearings in 2004, while in 2006 some members attacked the then coach Co Adriaanse’s car after a 0-0 draw with Rio Ave – with him in it..

Later, from the relative safety of Moscow where he was playing for Dynamo, the former Porto midfielder Costinha, now coach at Académica, said: "During the day they threatened players, in the evening they were having dinner with FCP directors.”

More recently, Madureira and members of the claque were in the news in February, visiting the restaurant belonging to the father of referee Jorge Ferreira, who had just reffed a controversial game in which Paços de Ferreira lost 3-1 at home to Benfica; the police had to be called. Jorge Ferreira hired a private bodyguard for some time afterwards as a precaution.

In defence of Canelas, Madureira, who has written an autobiography and has recently completed a masters in sports management, said: “There’s no aggression. What we have is more desire, more determination, more ambition than the other teams.” Meanwhile, the president of Canelas, Bruno Canastro, has called the boycott “a conspiracy”.

One of the clubs refusing to play, Pedrouços, had two minibuses set on fire last week, although a direct link between the arson and Canelas 2010 hasn’t been made. Canastro has said that he will withdraw the club from the league if any such link is found.

Regulations state that the no-show clubs will be subject to fines and the forfeit of games, but they feel strongly enough to go ahead with the boycott. In an attempt to find a way out of the imbroglio, the 12 have called on the Portuguese Football Federation to intercede. Phil Town

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