Soccer fans bring carnival atmosphere

 

THE PORTUGUESE came, saw and partied yesterday in Dublin in advance of the Europa League final, the biggest football match ever held in Ireland.

An estimated 16,000 fans arrived into Dublin airport for the match between FC Porto and Braga, two clubs from the north of Portugal that are just 48km apart. Porto later won the match 1-0.

Dublin airport successfully completed the first leg of the biggest logistical operation in its history.

A total of 70 charter flights came from early morning and were due to depart in the early hours of this morning.

Airport spokeswoman Siobhán Moore described the atmosphere as “like a carnival”.

The game at the Aviva Stadium, was well attended.

Each set of supporters were bussed to separate fan zones, the much more numerous Porto fans to the RDS and the Braga fans to the Point Village in advance of the match.

However, many did not stay in the fans zone because both were dry – a fact which seemed to be greeted with incredulity by fans who noted Dublin’s famous reputation for pubs.

Instead, Temple Bar was full for the afternoon with the Porto fans camping out on the plaza to sing songs.

The atmosphere between the fans was cordial given that the two clubs know each other very well.

They have never been rivals because of their disparate sizes and because Porto fans reserve their ire for their Lisbon rivals Benfica.

Miguel Sanbio, a Porto fan from Braga, said he had met many of his friends from his native town in Temple Bar.

“We are all friends, Braga and Porto,” he said.

“Thank God it is not Benfica. We don’t like Benfica.”

For Braga fans, it has been a season to remember.

A small club even by Portuguese standards, they have managed to beat Celtic, Liverpool and Arsenal on the rocky road to Dublin.

The match provided a welcome distraction to fans of both teams and to the Portuguese at large from the country’s economic problems.

Portuguese commentator Jorge Baptista said “the only thing that gives any happiness to the people is the football.

“To have two Portuguese teams in the final is really amazing.”

Braga fan Antonio Joaquim contrived to blame the six million (allegedly) Benfica fans who are in the south of Portugal for the country’s economic problems.

“We have a saying in Portugal that the people in the north earn all the money and the people in the south spend it.”