Peaceful Guns and Fiery Fun At The Football Game
In week 38, I finally indulged my passion for football and made it to a local game, only to be met with a gun incident, Portuguese style.
If you know anything about me, you know my love of football is deep and profound. As I am approaching the end of my first year in Lisbon, I had not yet gone to a local football game. Finally, me and three friends were heading to the Sporting v. Rakow game which was even more exciting because it was a European league game.
Not wanting to miss anything, we planned to meet outside the stadium a little early to check out the pre-game atmosphere. I arrived before everyone else, so I purchased a Sporting team scarf from a lady outside the subway and headed to find out what my fellow Sporting supporters were doing.
The last European league game I attended was at San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy. The atmosphere was electric, with vendors everywhere, selling souvenirs, sausage sandwiches and beers. It was a pre-game paradise! Expecting the same, I made my way around the Sporting stadium while waiting for the others. Slowly I realized I was not going to find the same atmosphere here. Outside of a few souvenir stands, no one was hanging out for pre-game merriment.
Gun Incident, Portuguese Style
I continued around the stadium, still hoping to find some gameday activity. Suddenly, the police halted my progress. They were beginning to block the street and sidewalk. I assumed that the team bus was on its way and while I am not usually a groupie who waits for the team bus, I decided I had nothing better to do. As I stood in the middle of the street trying to get a better view, the crowd grew. On the other side of the road, an impatient man started questioning the police, apparently not happy at how long he was having to wait.
As I watched, the man became increasingly agitated. Finally, boiling over, he attempted to push through the police line. The police quickly surrounded him and tried to calm him down. Suddenly the man took one last lunge at the police, which caused one of the cops to draw his gun.
Seriously? I avoided the widespread gun violence in the US only to get shot at my first Portuguese football game? To say the least, I was surprised at the events that transpired next. I was fully expecting the man to get thrown to the ground and his face shoved into the pavement. Not only did the police not arrest the man but after that it was really a non-event. He calmed down and waited with the rest of the crowd, not causing any further problems.
Later when I discussed this with my Portuguese friends, they seemed surprised that I expected a different outcome. They said the man just needed to calm down and the police got him to be patient. What did you expect? The cops to arrest him? Why?
It dawned on me how perfectly that was handled. Calm was restored which was the objective. Nothing more was needed.
Simple Food and Fireworks in the Stands
Finally my friends arrived and we grabbed a beer from a food court at the stadium and drank them on a bench outside. As we got closer to kickoff time, the pre-game atmosphere remained stale. Later I learned from a friend that we were not in the right spot to find the pre-game festivities. I filed the location away for the next game.
After finishing our beers, we headed into the stadium to find our seats. I’d heard the Sporting stadium was not very nice compared to the stadium of Benfica, their rival team in Lisbon. As I looked around, I noticed the dated and cheeky tiles on the walls with the team lion. I found them nostalgic and fun! The food offerings were slim but that is common in Europe where people come to see a game, not have lunch or dinner. It’s 2 hours of your life. Hot dogs, burgers and beer is all you need. I loved it!
Take away all the frills and only the serious fans come to the game. Despite an early red card that can throw off the balance of the play, it was a pretty good game, even including dueling displays of pyrotechnics in the supporter’s sections on opposite ends of the stands! That would never be allowed in the States…possibly for good reason.
After a 2-1 Sporting win, we headed back to the Alfama and topped off a fun evening with a quick nightcap at our local hangout before heading home.