136 years of hope, two moments of glory

For a Portuguese team, to be founded in 1876 it looks sensational, especially when your name is not Porto, Benfica or Sporting. And it is the case of Academica Coimbra, a club that saw the day light 136 years ago! A group of students from the University of Coimbra were the brains behind the squad which is known, even in our days as a ‘students’ club. The black and white colors define them from the beginning and so does the claim of their supporters which say that their team is the fourth beloved from Portugal after the three giants. It’s hard to tell that, but the team from the town with 100 thousand souls, located in the north part of Portugal, has two interesting stories to expose.

Even though Academica didn’t manage to win a league title, in their trophy rooms are standing two Portuguese Cups. The first achieved in 1939, whit the occasion of the first edition of the trophy. A sensational 4-3 win over Benfica brought them glory at that time. After that, played three more finals, in 1951, 1967 and 1969, from which two against Benfica and the one in the middle against Setubal, but never won the Cup. In fact in 1967 they were also so close to win the league, but at the end they finished only second, having 40 points, with three behind the same Benfica. In the last years nobody heard anything notably from Coimbra as they always finished in the second half of the Portuguese League. Only the Cup semifinal reached in 2011 raised the dust which covered the badge of the club based in 1876. So, no wonder that Coimbra qualified for the same competition’s final this year. Well, as a second thought it might look a bit surprisingly, as they finished only 13 in the League, after they struggled an important part of the season in the relegation zone.

The fact that they had reached the last act of the Cup couldn’t be more precious than now as they also did win the trophy after beating Sporting Lisbon, 1-0. An enormous victory, after 72 years from the first achievement and after 136 years from the birth. The encounter played on Estadio Nacional Oeiras, a suburb of Lisbon, was decided by Marinho’s goal, a 1.66 meter 29 old winger who started professional football, ten years ago at… Sporting Lisbon! He left quickly the club and now tried to pay them something back. But this isn’t the first time when Marinho beat Sporting. In 2008, while at C.D. Fatima, third tier team, he scored twice against ‘The Lions’ in a shocking 2-1 win in an away League Cup match. With a 4-4 on aggregate, Fatima didn’t make it in the superior stage, but remained with the satisfaction of putting out FC Porto in the previous round.

I am also sure that Estadio Nacional Oeiras doesn’t sound very familiar for you. But this pitch is the traditional host of the Portuguese Cup Final, with this edition being the 52nd of the history. The pitch was built in 1939, opened in 1944 and can host more than 37.000 people. Although that in Portugal are many bigger and modern stadiums, the officials denied often the possibility to move the last act of the tournament on another ground. And most likely Coimbra fans will remember the day of 20th of May 2012 as a very special one. For them this day will be probably the most important from the history of the stadium even though here took place a memorable match, the European Champions Cup final from 1967, won by Celtic, 2-1, in front of Inter Milan.

We saw that despite having such a long history, Academica got few achievements and also few notable players appeared during the years in front of the fans from Coimbra. If we would make a short famous players list, we’d surely start with Sergio Conceicao and Fernando Couto, two important players for the national side of Portugal. The first with 58 matches and 12 goals, from which 9 official and Couto with 110 games and eight goals. Conceicao didn’t play but only for the junior sides, a normal thing as he was born in Coimbra. A legend of the club is Rusell Latapy, one of the famous Trinidad & Tobago footballers who made it with his national team at the World Cup from 2006. Between 1990 and 1994 he played 127 games at Coimbra and scored 32 goals. Last, but not least notable name that appeared here one season is the one of the goalkeeper Henrique Hilario, between 1995-1996. The 36 old man, by now, is playing since 2006 at Chelsea, but made only 20 appearances in six seasons. Still, he won the Champions’ League medal in 2012.

Photo sources: abola.pt, flickr.com, supersport.com, sports.yahoo.com, aliniecionesinternational.blogspot.com, sportreflex.ro, uefaclubs.com

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