Soccer, futebol in Portuguese, is considered a true religion in Portugal. With its long and rich history, soccer has become the most popular sport among the Portuguese, dethroning by far all other sports activities.
In Portugal, soccer is watched, lived and shouted all year long. Between the best players in the world and the most famous clubs in the country, follow us to the heart of the culture and history of Portuguese soccer.
The Portuguese and soccer, a national love story.
In Portugal, if there is one thing everyone agrees on, it is soccer. It is the most popular sport among the Portuguese, but more than that, a real national passion.
Whether you are in a bar or restaurant in Braga, Porto, Lisbon or Faro, you will always find a TV on with a soccer match on.
If you are lucky enough to be in Portugal during the World Cup, the European Championship, the UEFA Nations League or the Portuguese Cup, then you will see the country in a different light.
Lisbon - Euro 2016 celebration
Indeed, Portuguese fans are always there to support their team. During an important match, the bars are transformed into real party places: beer flows freely, boards of cold cuts and croquetas abound on the tables and televisions are even installed on the terrace.
If the local or national team is the winner, the celebration will be joyfully noisy! Indeed, the Portuguese have a penchant for honking horns, setting off fireworks and shouting when it comes to soccer.
The passion for soccer is passed on from generation to generation. Each family supports its local team (Porto, Benfica and Sporting are the most supported), but all Portuguese revere the national team.
From afar, Lisbon is the capital of Portuguese soccer and is a source of excitement for all fans. The magic of soccer operates in the city thanks to the two mythical clubs, main actors of the national soccer: "Sporting Clube de Portugal" (in green) and "Sport Lisboa e Benfica" (in red), both located in Lisbon.
Sporting Clube de Portugal
The Derby Eterno or Lisbon Derby is the biggest soccer match in the country and divides the Portuguese viscerally. So, before talking to the Portuguese about soccer, make sure you know which team they support!
Sport Lisboa e Benfica
The birth of soccer in Portugal
The history of soccer in Portugal begins in the 19th century. The wealthy Portuguese sent their children to study in England. They came back with local habits including soccer.
The very first game in Portugal took place in 1875, in Madeira. It was organized by Harry Hinton, a student in England who had brought a football back to his native country.
The Portuguese Football Federation was founded in 1914 (União Portuguesa de Futebol). Its purpose was to organize national competitions and to set up a national team.
It was not until the 1960s that Portugal was discovered on the international soccer scene and a real national fervor was established.
The 60's, the 3F time...
In 1961, Benfica Lisbon, composed only of national players from all over the Portuguese empire, won the Champion Clubs Cup by beating the international stars of Barcelona.
In 1962, it was Real Madrid's turn to fail (3-5) and to see the Benfica club crowned, which then became mythical, winning 2 successive Champion Clubs Cups.
The Benfica team, European champion in 1961
In 1963-64, the other mythical club of Lisbon, Sporting, took over and won the Cup against Budapest.
The team of Sporting Lisbon, winner of the Cup of Cups in 1964
In 1966, the Portuguese national team had its first success at the World Cup, where it eliminated Brazil, the two-time defending champion, and was only eliminated in the semi-finals by the host country and future winner, England.
The team's ranks included Eusébio, winner of the 1965 Golden Ball and top scorer of the tournament, considered one of the best footballers in history.
The Portuguese national team at the 1966 World Cup
The Estado Novo regime decided to use soccer as a means of establishing its popularity. The Salazarist government launched a propaganda campaign and placed soccer within the trinity of the three Fs: Fátima, Fado and Futebol, symbols of Portuguese values.
In the 21st century, Portuguese culture is still very much marked by these three axes: Portugal is one of the most Catholic countries in Europe, soccer is by far the most popular sport and traditional Portuguese music remains very much part of the culture.
The 3 best Portuguese players in the history of soccer
This passion for soccer in Portugal has given rise to some of the best coaches and players in the world. Legendary players, such as Eusébio and Coluna in the 60s, or Cristiano Ronaldo nowadays, have, in fact, marked the spirit of the sport forever. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Anywhere in the world, it is impossible to talk about soccer without talking about Cristiano Ronaldo.
With his 807 goals and 1,110 games, the 37-year-old from Madeira will be the top scorer of all time in 2022. Find out more about Cristiano Ronaldo's life and sporting achievements in our article: "11 famous Portuguese people you've heard of"
Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, Eusébio
Eusébio is one of the greatest legends of Portuguese soccer, and even of world soccer.
Born in 1942 in Mozambique (a former Portuguese colony), he was an exceptional goal scorer, capable of scoring in any situation. With 631 goals in 650 games, he is one of the top 10 scorers in the history of soccer.
Find out more about Eusebio's life and sporting achievements in our article: "11 famous Portuguese people you've heard of".
Luis Figo is the third player considered one of the greatest Portuguese footballers in history, along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Eusébio.
Born in 1972 in Almada, he was named among the 125 best living players in the world in 2004 and won the Ballon d'Or in 2000.