The history of cricket in Portugal goes back to the days of the Peninsular War when Wellington's British troops were encamped in Lisbon.
The fact that there has been an annual fixture between sides from Oporto and Lisbon played virtually every year since 1861 gives testimony to the credentials of the cricketing establishment. Tradition is a very important aspect of the game of cricket and the cricket administrators in Portugal aim not to ever lose sight of the traditions which make the game what it is.
Tradition has, however, been partially responsible for the failure to develop cricket in Portugal. Erstwhile seen as a sport with strong English ties it was the almost exclusive domain of a relatively small group of ex-pats and sons of British families of long standing residence in Portugal and although it attracted a few notable locals, cricket was never given the impetus required to make it develop.
For cricket in Portugal to go forward, it was essential that the game be spread over a much wider spectrum whilst still respecting the old traditions of sportsmanship and gentlemanly behavior. With a twist of irony, the game of cricket in Portugal received a decided boost following the 1974 Revolution which saw the former Portuguese territories in Africa and the East being granted independence. The population shift of Portuguese nationals which resulted from the political changes meant that there was an influx into metropolitan Portugal of people who had learned how to play cricket in such places as Goa (India) and Mozambique. In addition, many Portuguese ex-pats residing in Angola and Mozambique relocated to Rhodesia and South Africa where their children were soon absorbed into the local sporting culture and thus became acquainted with the intricacies and traditions of cricket. The subsequent socio- political changes in those countries then prompted a further movement to Portugal of people who had already developed a love and understanding of cricket.
The harnessing of this potential and the bringing together of this latent talent was no easy task but with the help, guidance and understanding of the European Cricket Council (ECC), the present administrators of cricket in Portugal have embarked upon a development plan which is intended to see cricket develop into a truly national game within the next few years. Within the last few years, Portugal has already clearly demonstrated that it possesses a number of skillful cricketers.
Victory in what was to be the last ECF Championship in 1995 was followed by a semi-final berth in the first ECC Trophy in Switzerland in 1997 and the runners-up title in the 1999 Trophy in Corfu. An invitation to participate in the ECC European Championships in Scotland in July 2000 alongside the European ICC Associates was an honour and a compliment to Portugal's cricketers. They certainly did not disgrace themselves, recording victories over Greece and Israel and losing only narrowly to Gibraltar, France and Germany.
The 2001 ECC Trophy held in Austria provided Portugal's national team to cement their position in the forefront of European cricket and with comfortable victories over Sweden, Spain, Finland and Malta in the group stages, they entered the semi-final against Belgium as clear favourites. The Belgians proved to be the only side in the competition to restrict the Portuguese to under 200 runs in their allotted 35 overs but nonetheless, the all round consistency of Portugal's bowling and tenacious fielding saw them through to the final by a 10 run margin. The final against hosts Austria saw Portugal cruise to a 9 wicket victory and secure the highly desired Trophy as well as an invitation to participate in the ECC Championships in Ireland in 2002.
Perhaps even more notable achievements have so far been realised in the six-a-side indoor version of the game ('Cricket de Salão' as it is called in Portugal) for Portugal has now won the ECC Indoor Championships on 3 out of the 4 occasions in which its team has competed. As newcomers and rank outsiders the Portuguese team went home with the trophy from Versailles in France in February 1998 and a year later in Mechelen, Belgium they repeated the feat. In 1999 they lost in the semi-final to eventual champions Holland and so vengeance was particularly sweet when they beat the Dutch in the 2001 final on home "turf" of Mafra. Perched on the brink of a new era, cricket in Portugal looks forward to the future with confidence whilst remaining conscious of the long standing traditions.
Last Updated (Friday, 24 September 2010 15:45)