Text: Paulo Horta/ FC Porto Museum by BMG
What was the 25th of April like for FC Porto? The military coup of 1974 affected the club right from the first day of the revolution, as the field hockey team was forced to do part of a trip to Switzerland by bus, as they were playing two matches for the European Champions Cup there.
Days before, on April 20, the associates re-elected Américo de Sá as chairman of FC Porto. The Board was already dealing with a significantly emotional period for the white and blue universe, which directly influenced the main team of football: emotions went from the pain caused by the death of Pavão (on December 16, 1973) to the ecstasy of the arrival of Cubillas (in January, 1974). The political and social turmoil that occurred in the country obviously led to an even more delicate moment.
On the day of the military coup, the newsstands received the last edition of the newspaper “O Porto” (an old publishing of the club) that was edited by the censorship imposed by the dictatorship of the time. On the cover, the 1-0 victory of FC Porto over Barreirense on the previous weekend, for the National Championship, was the main news, and the internal elections of the club were mentioned. There was also an official denial that the coaching staff was about to be replaced, as Béla Guttmann was on his second life at the club.
Obviously, the deep change in the Portuguese reality was only noticeable (somewhat) on the next edition of the newspaper, published on May 2. Moved by the strength of the newly conquered freedom, the directors of the club decided to, on that same day, disclose the official position of FC Porto concerning the historical events occurring in the country. “The Board of FC Porto, voicing the will of the supporters, is proud to observe the feeling of joy across the country, and supports it, in hopes of it leading to a better Portugal”, was the statement, registered by the club.
Without making any other considerations, as the statutes of the club clearly indicate it should remain apolitical, FC Porto greeted the new, and much anticipated, era in Portugal. Curiously enough, the last board to be elected while under the dictatorship was also the first to be appointed in a state of democracy (June, 1974), which started to clear off the notion of centralism and deep protection to the clubs seated in the capital city.
Stopped at the border
Marchs, incidents, and militaries on the street, moving to strategical positions in the city and all around Porto. With the revolution in full course, the first athletes to feel the effects of the coup directly were the players of the field hockey team.
With a trip scheduled for April 26, to Switzerland, to play two matches for the European Champions Cup, the team had to leave earlier, on the 25th. In Pedras Rubras, the airport was taken by military forces, who closed all flights, and what was meant to be a trip by air, ended up being a bus tour to Madrid, from where the white and blues would catch their flight.
In Vilar Formoso, on the night of 25th to 26th, the Dragons found all borders closed. The team had to wait for a permission from Junta de Salvação Nacional (recently created to manage the country during the transition to the new regime) to allow the hockey players to continue their trip. The order came at… 15h30 on the 26th, and the team only arrived at Switzerland on the 27th.
Nóbrega, Abel and Barreirense
On the 21st and the 28th, FC Porto faced Barreirense at Estádio das Antas, first for the National Championship, and then for the Portuguese Cup, having won both matches 1-0. Nóbrega scored the last goal of the team while the country was still under a dictatorship, and Abel scored the first white and blue goal after the revolution.
On April 26, when the country was already experiencing freedom for 24 hours, the Board of FC Porto gathered at the old headquarters of the club, in Praça do Município (currently Praça General Humberto Delgado). Football, basketball, cycling, swimming, sporting infrastructures and medical staff were the issues debated in that meeting.
Gomes, the start of the legend
In 1974, central defender Rolando was the captain of the football team of FC Porto. An historic reference of the club, who still has a role at the club, Rolando witnessed the arrival of Cubillas at the Dragons that year. The talented Peruvian player arrived as if god sent, but 1974 had the debut of yet another legendary player in the white and blue universe. In August, striker Fernando Gomes played his first match for the senior team, in a friendly, against the Polish team Ruch Chorzow; by September, he was already decisive in the National Championship: two goals to CUF, for the first matchday.
This text was published in the segment “Os Imortais” in the April edition of the magazine “Dragões”, an official publishing of FC Porto.