The Portuguese Cup semi-final last night encapsulated everything that one can expect from a big football match in Portugal.
Some brilliant play by both teams (Iván Jaime and Otávio again showing they are elite footballers), the result uncertain until a dramatic end, but all the fantastic football was overshadowed by controversy, much of it unsavoury, as the coaches of the two teams clashed and racism allegations flew.
PortuGOAL unpacks the commotion arising from the Estádio do Dragão on Thursday evening.
Football at its finest
First up, we highly recommend watching the Porto 3-2 Famalicão highlights and reading the match report. After losing the home leg 2-1 last week, not many gave Famalicão much chance of turning it around at the home of the Portuguese champions.
But the visitors were the better team for most of the 90 minutes, Spanish midfielder Iván Jaime further enhancing his burgeoning reputation with a superb display and an expertly dispatched goal that took the game to extra time. Famalicão ran out of steam in extra time but were holding on and penalties looked inevitable until Otávio thundered in an unstoppable 20-yarder in stoppage time, with Evanilson adding another goal deep into time added on.
Porto will play Braga in the Portuguese Cup final at Jamor on 4 June.
Pepe accuses Colombatto of racism
Unfortunately, after the match most of the focus was not on the skill, technique and passion on display.
In the second half it became evident Porto captain Pepe was enormously upset by something he had heard from Famalicão’s Argentine midfielder Santi Colombatto. The 40-year-old veteran vigorously remonstrated with the referee for several minutes, screaming and waving his arms around furiously, and having to be restrained by teammates.
“He call me a mono. Everyone knows what a mono is: it means monkey in Spanish,” said Pepe. “The only reason I didn’t walk off the pitch was out of respect for people who had paid money to come here and watch, and people who were watching on TV.”
Pepe was especially bruising in his criticism of referee Manuel Mota, who was standing beside both players when the incident occurred.
“The referee was one metre away, heard perfectly and didn’t have the courage to stop the game and send off the player. It’s inadmissible in a football game.
“I told him (Manuel Mota) that I was disappointed with him and I didn’t compliment him at the end because he didn’t deserve my compliment. He had the authority and conditions to mark the history of football differently and he didn’t have the courage.”
Pepe has lodged a formal complaint to the Portuguese police.
The extra-football polemic did not stop there. When Otávio scored the winner, Porto coach Sérgio Conceição ran to the opposition bench to celebrate and shout in the face of his opposite number João Pedro Sousa.
Conceição was subsequently sent off by the referee. It was his 23rd red card as a coach (13 times as Porto manager), and the fourth time he has seen red this season alone.
In the post-match press conference Famalicão coach João Pedro Sousa did not hold back in his appraisal of the incidents, taking aim at Pepe, defending Colombatto and lambasting Conceição.
“Whoever says Colombatto offended someone is lying. It’s a lie. I don’t care who said it. If someone said it, it’s a lie or he misunderstood. You have to be careful of what you accuse people of.
“Yes, I spoke to Santiago. Santiago is a gentleman. He’s a great professional. He leaves it all on the pitch and not only in matches, but also during training, before training and after training. He’s a gentleman.
“I only asked him once and if he had said, for any reason, what they are accusing him of, and with his character he would quickly admit it. He told me it was a lie. If anyone – coaches, players or directors – say he said that, they are lying.”
Sousa calls out Conceição
Sousa was also asked about Conceição’s reaction when Otávio scored the decisive goal at the end of extra time.
“Sincerely I don’t know what happened. When I realised what was going on, the opposition coach was shouting in my face.
Sérgio Conceição foi expulso após festejar o golo de Otávio em direção ao banco do Famalicão. (via @vsports_pt) pic.twitter.com/AbI50msVjo— B24 (@B24PT) May 4, 2023
“It’s deplorable at all levels. I understand the heat of the moment, but I guarantee that I would never do that for a simple reason: I’m a polite person of good character.
“I also get caught up in the matches, I have my heart in my mouth, but this does not allow me after my team scores a goal to run to the opposition coach and shout in his face.
“I don’t know what he said, I wasn’t listening. At that moment I had to think fast to help my team.
“When it comes to insulting referees or players… don’t count on me. That’s how I conduct myself in my profession and I’m not going to change.”
Conceição hits back
After Sousa’s press conference, Sérgio Conceição duly took to the stage to give his version of events and his immediate reaction to his opposite number’s statements.
“I have complete confidence in Pepe. The referee has the audio and what the Famalicão player called Pepe must be understood. Pepe is the Portugal captain, one of the Portuguese players with the most trophies. There was a lack of respect towards Pepe.
“As for being rude or having a bad character, he [João Pedro Sousa] was not there to hear what Pepe heard.
“He’s come here and called Pepe a liar and said I’m rude and a person of bad character. Perhaps he is. He’s a coach who said the most important game was the final at Jamor. High expectations, high disappointment.
“When I got up to celebrate I did exactly what the Famalicão player did when he celebrated their second goal in front of the Super Dragões (Porto ultras).
“I didn’t say anything to anyone. I just punched the air and I was sent off. When I was sent off I told the person who was here before me that it was his players who were rude to Pepe and to our supporters.
“I’m sick of wolves in sheep’s clothing and I’m sick of hypocrisy.”
Conclusion: when the passion boils over
“Portugal é um país de brandos costumes” is a well-known saying in the country, which can be translated as “Portugal is a country of gentle ways”.
For the most part it is an accurate reflection of society in a pacific and friendly nation. When it comes to football, however, this tranquil characteristic often goes out of the window, with players, coaches and directors routinely unable to keep the intense passion they feel for the game in check.
On the one hand, this is very probably one factor that helps explain the incredible overachievement of a nation of 10 million people when it comes to the production of many of the best players and coaches in the world game.
Nevertheless, even by Portuguese standards, the behaviour of several of the chief protagonists yesterday at the Estádio do Dragão went far beyond what is acceptable in a football match. We certainly have not heard the last of it.
By Tom Kundert