Saturday, April 29, 2017
G.D. Fabril – Oriental (05-03-2017)
On a grey and relatively cold Sunday afternoon I am picked up by car at my hotel by RT, born and raised in Lisbon, who shares virtually al my passions: academics, politics, and football. He had wanted to take me to a home game of the team of his neighborhood, Clube Oriental de Lisboa (Oriental), but instead drives me across the river to the industrial town of Barreiro, where Oriental will face the local club.
Grupo Deportivo Fabril was founded in 1937 as the football team of Companhia União Fabril (CUF), a Portuguese chemical cooperation and the major business in the town of Barriero. It has a long history in the highest division of Portuguese football, and games against AC Milan in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (1965-6), but those days are long gone. Today they play in the Campeonato de Portugal (Third Division).
Their home ground, the Complexo Desportivo Alfredo da Silva, also has seen much better days. It can hold 22.000, but I doubt it has seen more than 1.000 on one day for years – barring, perhaps, a Cup game against one of Lisbon’s giants, Benfica and Sporting. We get tickets for 5 euro each – they give us half of an old stub from previous games, which we then have to hand back again at the gate.
Today there are roughly 100 people. Clearly most people are local and working class, almost exclusively white, but I am quite surprised how many younger people there are, including a small group of “ultras,” who sing for most of the game. That said, the bulk of the people are older, some might have experienced the better days. There are also some 20 away supporters from across the river.
The weather is bad and the pitch is even worse. This leads to slow play, mostly in the middle third of the pitch, dominated by incorrect passes. This notwithstanding, in the 15th minute Oriental gets a corner and it is headed into the goal: 0-1.
That would also be almost the only notable action of the first half. In the 38th minute Fabril gets its first half-chance, a half-assed volley that goes wide. Half time score: 0-1.
We get some chewy meat sandwiches at the one grill in the stadium and move closer to the one main stand, which provides some cover against the rain. It is a day that wouldn’t stand out in the Netherlands in October, so quite a disappointment for March in Portugal.
The quality of play remains terrible and I am very thankful that RT is such a great companion, as I might have struggled to sit this one out alone. In the 75th minute Oriental has a good pass but the shot is stopped by the goalie. The next minute Fabril has its first good attack but the low shot is stopped by the goalie.
In the 81st minute Oriental gets a corner, which is headed at goal at the first post, and then a second header goes in: 0-2. By that time it is clear to all, players and supporters, that this game is over. There is one more chance, for Oriental, before the referee blows the final whistle. Most home fans take it lightly: they have seen this many times before.
The quality of play was extremely poor, and the weather didn’t help either, but it was still a nice experience. I like old glory, run-down stadiums that still have a hint of the old days, but are largely empty, bar some old-timers who relive the old successes in their heads as they watch the game with one eye. GD Fabril offers this, but also has a small group of next generation fans.