The final whistle sounded and the heroes were designated. The former champions would drop defenseless with their head on the grass as if from paying tribute it was.
The final score, 2-1, is “what really counts for the history books”, but what happened on that day cannot be summed only by the final score. What happened on that day will live forever in the minds of those who dedicated so much to the team and fought to make history. We had 90 minutes, of one of the most epic battles of the season, split into 45 minutes of wonder and 45 minutes of suffering. One team, but not just the 11 players on the pitch. No, not even 18. I am talking about the players on the field, the players on the bench, the staff and everyone who decided to stop by Estádio de Honra and support us on that rainy afternoon.
We had already been close once, five years ago, but we were defeated in the final. However, this time the feeling was different. In the locker-room, we were apprehensive. We knew it was not going to be an easy battle. After all, we were facing one of the best armies ever to fight for the championship. But confidence hovered in the air. We had our lesson studied, we knew their strengths, we knew their weaknesses but, above all, we were aware of ours.
It was the climax of a strong but painful season with burns on our thighs, sprained ankles, broken shoulders, pulled muscles, headaches, fevers, and even nights with no sleep. Every week, more than 8 hours of our time would be invested on what a lot of people would call “running after the ball”. We spent every class thinking about the training sessions. We had to listen to our friends and colleagues complain about the heavy rain they would have to face in the walk from the main door to the car, knowing fully well the sacrifice that awaited us for the next 2 hours of the day. Frequently, we arrived home, at 11PM, knowing fully well that besides dinner, we had a whole assignment due for the next day that was behind schedule.
But it was all worth it! We were soon to realize that we were destined for great things. On what could have been just a normal training session, one of us called the rest of the group for a statement. He said, and I will never forget that, “We have got to man up! We have got to aim for the tittle!”. It was on that day that we all realized that we had a shot. The dream was there for grabs and we only had to stretch our hands. From that day on, the mindset was different. We were going for the title!
Whenever we fell, we got up again. We struggled many times, but we always went back to the four words that I believe best describe the group: Humility, Courage, Commitment, and finally, Friendship. We were not only members of the same team. We were classmates, brothers in arms, brothers from another mother, we had no country nor single culture. We spoke only one language, and the most international one of all – love. We supported each other, far beyond the width of the pitch. We lived together and we would die together.
This is the culture of this team. What happened this year is far from new and that is why we owe everything to the ones whose blood painted the red shirts that were taken to the battlefield. To them I am forever grateful for this title.
They gave me the honor of representing them on the field. They heard my speeches, they heard my screams and they saw me cry. They saw me fail, they saw me succeed and they celebrated with me. They helped me to grow and I learned so much with every single one of them. I just hope that I have lived up to their expectations because I do not ever want to disappoint them.
On that Thursday, April 22nd 2017, thirty-three of my best friends wrote their names on the history book:
António Nobre, Afonso Pereira, Afonso Maya Seco, Afonso Pratas, André Lopes, Angelo Migliorino, Diogo Relveiro Pereira, Duarte Girão, Filipe Bento Caires, Francisco Grincho, Francisco Xavier, Frederico Carvalho Fernandes, Guilherme Azambuja, Guilherme Castro, Joaquin Molinuevo, João Batista, João Filipe Hetzel, João Martinho Galhofo, José Corte-Real Neves, Luis Lopes, Luís Martins, Manuel Felgueiras, Manuel Correia, Manuel Gonçalves, Manuel Xavier, Moritz Guertler, Ricardo Amaral, Ricardo Santos, Ruben Pratapsinh, Rui Peneda, Sérgio Bidarra, Sjoerd Reyer, Tomas Branco, Tarek Abdo.
And they were the reason that my name will also be there. We all stand together!
We won one battle, but the war is far from over. The next stop is Coimbra and I just pray, that with our feet on the ground, we can replicate the same feelings of that rainy Thursday afternoon.
A big thank you to all of you,
Your beloved captain,
Diogo Relveiro Pereira
P.S. A Special thanks to our Coach António Nobre and His team, João Batista and Afonso Pereira, for their astonishing work. To Manuel Felgueiras, your effort supporting the team was amazing. And Finally, to all the fans and supporters that were either on that final or in any game of the season. You were all, without any doubt, the ones who helped us achieve this much.
Diogo Relveiro Pereira
Diogo is a Masters of International Management student at NOVA School of Business & Economics. His interests are traveling and volunteering work and his passions are music and, above all, Football.
Last modified: 28/03/2017