From Reading reserves to pitch invasions at Boavista
I was there ~ Phil Town rarely experienced success in Reading, but his move to Portugal was rewarded when Boavista overcame Porto to win the league in 2000-01
Talk about being starved of glory. Until 2001, the only other game I had attended that had warranted a celebratory pitch invasion was in the 1965-66 season. Reading reserves drew 1-1 with Bournemouth & Boscombe in front of a delirious 5,000 crowd at Elm Park to win the Football Combination Division Two title.
I was always out of the country for Reading's later promotions and their Simod Cup triumph against Luton in 1988.
When I arrived in Portugal, I steered clear of the três grandes (Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting) and aligned myself instead with another underdog. I was attracted by their black and white chequered shirts, some excellent players – including João Pinto, Nigerian striker Ricky and the very wonderful Bolivian midfielder Erwin Sanchez – and one particularly impressive win over Benfica at the Luz. The club was Boavista.
In the seasons leading up to 2000-01, Boavista had been bubbling under. They were runners-up in 1998-99, behind Porto. In 2000 I became a sócio, a card-carrying associate member, and it seemed to work. They went all the way to become only the second club outside the big three to be crowned Portuguese champions – Belenenses had done it in 1946.
Boavista and FC Porto were separated by an unshakeable four points in the run-in, with Porto waiting for their neighbours to trip. But Boavista never faltered. And so it came down to the penultimate game; if Boavista could win that, they would be four points ahead going into the final match, at FC Porto (which the Panteras Negras were to lose 4-0, but by then it wouldn't matter).
Fortunately, Boavista's opponents in that penultimate game were already-relegated Desportivo das Aves, which took the pressure off. Boavista had the best defence in the league, with only 18 goals conceded in 32 games. They also had the second best attack after Porto. There was absolutely no way they were going to let the title slip from their grasp now.
I watched on confidently in the newly built East Stand but I don't remember much about the game itself. For the record, Boavista strolled it, 3-0, with goals from my hero Sanchez and Brazilian strikers Elpídio Silva (O Pistoleiro, top scorer that season but with just ten goals) and Augusto Whelliton.
One moment that has stuck with me came late in the game with the score already at 3-0. The highly influential midfielder, Armando Teixeira, aka Petit, aka Pitbull, came over to the bench for some water only to be screamed back onto the field by diminutive coach Jaime Pacheco. It was a crystallisation of the ethos that had won the club the ultimate prize: work, work and more work.
On the final whistle, the gate in the new perspex fence was opened and we poured out onto the pitch. I walked around in a half-daze, drinking in the exquisite scent of crushed grass and evening air. A bloke passed me wearing headgear fashioned out of goal net and I cursed myself for not having something sharp on me to cut a bit for myself. I lifted some turf, which I took home and planted.
There were rumours that the team would be going on a mini open-bus tour that night, so I bought some cans in a bar on the Avenida da Boavista and waited with hundreds of others on the roundabout at the end of the avenue. Sadly, the traffic got clogged and the bus never arrived, but their absence did not spoil what had been an elating evening and season. Phil Town
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