A Passage to Portugal (part deux)

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I’ll be brief with this post because A) There’s been plenty of talk in the Argus and on the interweb about Albion’s second ill-fated match in the Algarve B) I’m tired and fancy a wee nap.

We arrived late Saturday afternoon at the Estadio da Nora in Ferreiras, 3-4 miles north of Albufeira itself, in good time for a few shants before kick-off. The stadium bar were not interested so we found a bar out on the main drag where we met up with other travelling Seagulls on the same mission.

The match itself was never going to reach the same levels of satisfaction as Wednesday’s for two good reasons. Portimonense are not Sunderland, and they were never going to be troubled by an Albion team reduced to the archetypal ‘kick and rush’ British style of play so denigrated by the Great Beckenbauer. The second was that the small crowd was full of Albion fans, a few locals, and a scattering of Portimonense followers. I missed the Mackems and their noise and banter.

We met up with a regular Withdean mate, who drove over from Lagos with his missus and her two daughters. The girls weren’t that keen on watching this game, and they way it ended up made me certain my pal wouldn’t be hassled for a young person’s ticket at the Theatre of Trees anytime soon.

Now the meat – after Portimonense took a well deserved 2-0 lead I was feeling that regular down-to-earth-bump you always get as a Brighton fan. The difference in style between these two sides was enormous. I was scrutinising two guys in particular on the park – Messrs Poke and El-Abd. Poke looks dodgy – that’s all I have to say – but of course he could be better and it’s only pre-season, but the doubt is there.

Adam El-Abd has always warmed the cockles of the residents of Casa Hovian. The big bruiser is the consummate club man, an all-round good guy who shut up a few critics last year with some sterling displays alongside Tommy Elphick at the back of our defence. With the arrival of Gordon Greer – who looks, is built the same, and runs like Elphick – El-Abd has his work cut out keeping his slot at centre back. Greer was Lawrenson-esque on Wedsnesday, poor old Bomber was Hawkins-esque on Saturday night.

The “Brawl”? Nothing, nada. I didn’t see what happened until I saw first the Albion bench empty, then the Portimonense bench empty, followed by two local coppers, and finally, assorted handbag wavers. For the referee to abandon the match over what amounted to a bunfight was ludicrous, almost as ludicrous as his burgundy coloured outfit and his haughty, imperious manner, not in keeping with officiating a friendly match in the Algarve in July. He is obviously an admirer of a certain bald off-duty copper from Rotherham, and this was his World Cup Final. A bellend.

After the ritual booing of and gesticulating to the Portuguese team as they left the field, most of our fans were at a loss thinking of what to do next. Some (including us) retired to the nearest bar again for a soak, others waited for taxis that never came; the rumour was that the cab firms heard the news “Football stadium? Check. Fight? Check. English fans? Check.” and gave the place a wide berth. We were lucky in that after we sank a couple of beers our generous host ordered us a cab home.

We flew out of Faro the next morning, the fastest week of our lives over, until the next foreign holiday of course. All in all it was a great experience and I loved every moment of it.

Hang on, I said I would be brief! But I love waxing about the Albion, I’ve missed the buzz since May, and my season ticket arrived home today, that has given me a much needed post-holiday lift. First game for me will probably be at home against Rochdale on August 14th, I’m working on the day we go to Swindon. Bugger.

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