A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today
Promoted to the top flight in 2013, and enjoying their longest European run in 2015-16, Belenenses were suddenly brought down to earth in 2018 when financial meltdown saw the club dissolve into two separate entities.
One, the original Os Belenenses, one of two clubs outside Portugal’s Big Three to have won a league championship, kept the historic record, the badge and, most importantly the fan base. The other, named Belenenses SAD, standing for public limited sports company, grabbed the top-flight status.
Gradually though, the wheels came off the breakaway operation. Playing before a few hundred spectators at the far-flung Estádio Nacional, Belenenses SAD slipped slowly towards relegation. Fittingly, the club is now reduced to calling itself B-SAD and playing second-tier 20km north of Lisbon, in Malveira.
The original Belenenses, meanwhile, have gained four promotions to reach the third tier, only one below their nemesis now in disarray.
Then, of course, there’s the stadium. What might be more attractive to the casual foreign visitor than third-tier football – and there are literally hundreds of casual foreign visitors to Belém every day – is the location.
Set on an incline overlooking a magnificent sweep of the Tagus (boats cruise up and down regularly to Lisbon and back from the nearby quayside), the quaint Estádio do Restelo also overlooks the finest building in all Lisbon, the Jerónimos Monastery.
A daily influx of tourists makes the easy journey from Lisbon hub Cais do Sodré without even realising there’s a football stadium here, too. The club’s one-point victory for that solitary title in 1946 is barely remembered outside of Belém, the historic setting-off point for Vasco da Gama and the great Portuguese explorers of the 15th century.
There’s more history, however. By the venue’s main office, the large carving in a stone wall is of José Manuel Soares, the hero of Os Belenenses. His glory days were shortly before the introduction of the national league in 1934 but his goals took Belenenses to three local Lisbon titles before he died in mysterious circumstances in 1931. Blue-and-white flowers embellish the large dedication, while a much smaller plaque marks the Pope’s visit in 1991.
Back in the day, the ‘Azuls do Restelo’ were considered one of the country’s Big Four. Such was their fame that they were chosen to face Real Madrid in a curtain-raising friendly to unveil the Bernabéu stadium in 1947.
With occasional forays into Europe, one year thanks to a cup win in 1989, Belenenses were a respectable presence in the top flight, only to drop down a division in.2010. Bouncing back to beat both Gothenburg and Basel in the Europa League in 2015-16, the Belém side overreached itself, with dire consequences by 2018.
It now seems inevitable, as Womble must meet Don, that the two branches of the Belenenses convolution will soon convene at some level of the league pyramid – if B-SAD survive.
The field of dreams – and the stands around it
Few grounds in Europe bask in such a magnificent setting as the Estádio do Restelo, a blue-coloured bowl backdropped by the Jerónimos Monastery and the Tagus beyond.
With a capacity of around 25,000, the venue would grace any mid-table, top-flight Portuguese team. Sadly its hosts, Os Belenenses, are currently struggling their way out of the Segunda Liga.With a capacity of around 25,000, the venue would grace any mid-table, top-flight Portuguese team. Sadly its hosts, Os Belenenses, are currently struggling their way out of the Segunda Liga.
Ironically, the ground was only opened in 1956, just as the Blues were on the wane. Since then, it has rarely been able to fill to capacity – except when used as rock venue for the likes of Pearl Jam and Queen.
Often bathed in sunlight, easy to get to and reasonably cheap to enter, the Estádio do Restelo should provide the weekending neutral a thoroughly pleasant match-day experience. And these days at least, a top-flight one.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
From the waterside hub of Cais do Sodré at the terminus of the green metro line, take any of several trams running parallel to the river to Belém – there are several. The 15 is the most frequent. Alighting at the Jerónimos Monastery 10-15mins away, you can either take a bus (714, 727, 728) three stops from the foot of Rua dos Jerónimos, or do the short but steep incline on foot, looking back for those wonderful views.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
The ticket offices are on the river-facing side of the ground and open 2hrs before kick-off. Prices are €12 for the best seats in the Central Stand, €10 for the South End, €8 for the North End and, the cheapest, €4 for the Lower Bancada. Os Belenenses members gather in the Bancada Puente.
what to buy
Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts
The Loja Azul (Mon-Fri 11am-1pm, 3pm-7pm, 10am-1pm Sat, 2hrs before kick-off Sun) is the club shop, set on a corner below the Varanda Azul, at the club offices by the José Manuel Soares mural.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
There are two standard bar/restaurants at the stadium, both on the upper floor: the Restaurante Os Barriguitas do Restelo on Rua dos Jerónimos; and the Varanda Azul by the club offices in the main stand on the other side of the ground.
There’s also a hub of tourist-friendly cafés at the bottom of Rua dos Jerónimos, patronised by foreigners checking the images they’ve taken of the Jerónimos Monastery next door.