n September 23, one of
Portugal’s most storied football
teams will be celebrating its
centenary. But instead of
commemorating 100 years of
existence and a glorious past,
Os Belenenses have lurched into an unprecedented
crisis with no solution in sight. And it’s a crisis that
has, quite literally, split the club in two.
An ugly boardroom battle with increasingly
vitriolic overtones resulted in the bizarre situation
whereby this season kicked off with two separate
incarnations of the team from Lisbon’s chic Belem
quarter. One is playing in Portugal’s the sixth tier,
attracting crowds of over 5,000 and rocketing
towards promotion, the other is in Portugal’s top
flight, with no fixed abode and almost no fans, and
yet is in with a shout of qualifying for Europe.
Belenenses is a club that was part of the very
soul of Portuguese football, one of only two teams
outside the traditional Tres Grandes of Benfica,
Sporting and Porto to have won the championship,
and the club which, apart from those three, has
spent the most years in the top division.
Some of the greats of Portuguese football have
donned the sky-blue shirt, including Mozambican-
born Matateu, who enjoyed a fantastic career in the
Portuguese capital. He famously insisted on drinking
a beer during the half-time interval but that did not
stop him scoring 220 goals in 280 games for the
club. Were he alive today to witness the mayhem,
one suspects he would be asking for something far
stiffer than a beer to calm his nerves.
So how has an institution so steeped in history
come to this?
In Portugal, major football clubs
are obliged by law to be run by
a sports-oriented public limited
company, called a Sociedade
Anonima Desportiva (SAD), to
increase financial transparency.
In 2012, Belenenses sold 51 per
cent of its shares to Codecity Sports
Management investment fund, with
the football club retaining a buy-
back clause to be exercised within
two to five years.
A protocol was signed whereby
Belenenses split in two
the club yielded its badge, name and use of its Restelo
stadium to Belenenses SAD. But relations soured so
badly between the two parties that SAD reneged on its
original intention to allow the club to buy back its share
and by the time the protocol expired in June 2018 the
two parties were at war.
The team owned by Belenenses SAD was kicked
out of the stadium and a new side was founded. But
Belenenses SAD carried on regardless, continuing
to use the club’s name, kit and badge, training and
staging its matches at the nearby Jamor stadium, a
10-minute drive from Restelo. Despite almost no squad
investment, under the astute management of former
player Silas the team has enjoyed a fine season, beating
Braga away and taking four points from Benfica.
For the majority of the fans though, this is not the
team with 100 years of history. Patrick Morais de
Carvalho, president of the newly-formed Belenenses,
speaks for many when he claims his club is the
legitimate version, stating: “The results of the Codecity
team mean nothing to me.”
He went to court to prove his point and in October
last year the Intellectual Property Tribunal ruled that
Belenenses SAD could no longer use the name, badge
or symbols of the original club. Sports media and the
Portuguese FA were obliged to fall into line and replace
the age-old “Belenenses” name in league tables and
reports with “Belenenses SAD”.
The supporters have largely turned their backs on
Low key...Belenenses SAD
host Porto in Jamor
Empty...Kikas celebrates scoring at home for Belenenses SAD