Phil Town explains how a recent ruling could mean more good news for Porto, while Boavista hope for a reversal of fortunes

“This is our destiny” ran the stadium banners that accompanied FC Porto’s best ever season. They won four out of a possible five trophies – Portuguese Championship, Cup and Supertaça (between last season’s Champions and Cup-winners) and the Europa League – and faltered only twice. The League Cup went to Benfica and the open-top bus broke down on the way to the city-centre celebrations for the Europa League win.

Porto have now won a total of 69 official trophies in their history, either equalling or sneaking ahead of Benfica’s record, depending on who you listen to. Benfiquistas claim a by-invitation-only Taça Latina, won in 1950, which FIFA have said they do not recognise.

Such was Porto’s dominance of Portuguese football this season that it’s tempting to predict them drawing smoothly away from their Lisbon rivals and disappearing into the distance in coming seasons. This would continue the momentum of the last couple of decades in which they’ve won 14 out of 20 titles, to Benfica’s three.

At the beginning of May, FC Porto and the club’s president, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, also enjoyed an important victory behind the scenes. In July 2008, a meeting of the Council of Justice of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) had rejected an appeal against the decision of the league’s disciplinary committee in May of that year to dock the club six points for the preceding season and suspend Pinto da Costa for two years for the attempted bribery of match officials in 2004 – the so-called Apito Final (Final Whistle) corruption process.

The July 2008 meeting had been called to a halt by the chairman because he considered there to be a conflict of interests regarding one of the members of the council. However, proceedings continued without the chairman present, and it was during this period that Porto’s appeal was rejected.

The club and president had the matter referred to the Lisbon administrative court, which has now ruled the second part of the meeting null and void, a decision the FPF may in turn appeal. The ruling could lead to a claim for sizeable compensation from the federation by both the club and Pinto da Costa. But if Porto were pleased with the decision, their neighbours Boavista were overjoyed. They have a similar process under review with the administrative court regarding the same meeting.

Boavista’s appeal is even more significant than Porto’s. The original disciplinary committee decision had found Boavista (in the persons of former club and league president, Valentim Loureiro, and club successor, his son João) guilty of actual bribery of match officials. The committee relegated the club to the second-tier Liga de Honra for 2008-09.

The demotion kicked Boavista into a downward spiral that now sees them stranded in the semi-professional third tier. It’s a hard place to get out of. Only two clubs from three regional divisions, 48 clubs in all, are promoted to the Liga de Honra, and that after a three-way play-off between the top clubs. Boavista narrowly missed out on the play-offs this time around.

Boavista aren’t the most popular club in Portugal, it must be said, due to the Loureiros’ negative image and the not-entirely-unjustified perception of Boavista teams as being dirty. But nonetheless, a kinder heart will see the poignancy of the 108-year-old club’s predicament. May 18 was the tenth anniversary of Boavista’s one and only Portuguese title. And it wasn’t just a flash in the pan: they were runners-up in 1999 and 2002, participated twice in the group stages of the Champions League and reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2003. For a while back then, talk was of the emergence of a fourth Grande (after Benfica, Porto and Sporting).

How the mighty are fallen. Crippled by debts (from mismanagement and overstretching to build the new Bessa stadium in time for Euro 2004), Boavista teeter on the brink of a financial abyss that in the recent past swallowed up clubs like Farense and Salgueiros.

But the administrative court ruling in favour of Porto has offered Boavista a glimmer of hope. Awaiting the decision that relates directly to their cause, boavisteiros dream of a significant amount of compensation – a figure of €100 million (£89m) has been bandied about – and immediate reinstatement to the top level of Potuguese football. If and when that day comes, the stadium banners that have accompanied the club’s banishment to the wilderness – “Justice for Boavista” – can be removed.

From WSC 293 July 2011

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