A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today
Now back in the top flight after six seasons of ignominy, Boavista are based in the Porto district of the same name.
Both the 2008 descent from and recent ascent back to the Primeira Liga were decided behind closed doors. First punished for their involvement in the so-called Golden Whistle corruption scandal, Boavista were invited back in 2014 – from the third flight – when the Primeira was expanded to 18 clubs.
The only Portuguese club in modern times to wrest the championship from the Big Three, Boavista were founded in 1903 by English bosses and Portuguese workers of Graham’s textile factory near Avenida da Boavista. From this, a new club, the distinctively Lusitanian Boavista Futebol Clube, was established in 1909.
A modest ground, the Campo do Bessa, was opened in 1911.
Boavista FC made the Primeira Liga in 1935, the year after its inauguration, but dropped back down again, a pattern repeated until the arrival of José Maria Pedroto as coach in 1974. The former Porto midfielder led the Panthers to two cups in successive seasons, missing out on the double in 1976 by two points.
Star of the team was dynamic attacking midfielder João Alves, famous for playing in black gloves, who would finish his career at Boavista a decade later.
The next great playmaker was Erwin ‘Platini’ Sánchez, a product of Bolivia’s famous Tahuichi Academy. After helping the Panthers win another cup in 1997, goals coming from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Sánchez left for Benfica. While Hasselbaink made his name at Leeds, the influential Sánchez came back to Boavista.
Along with left-sided midfielder Ion Timofte, impressive displays in the 1998-99 league campaign took Boavista to an eventual runners-up spot – though the subsequent debut in the Champions League proved disappointing.
With their stadium earmarked for a Euro 2004 revamp, Boavista at last won the title in 2001. Coach Jaime Pacheco, whose Panthers had so impressed in 1999, made sure his side made few slip-ups this time. Though outscored by Porto, Boavista conceded only 22 all season thanks to Ricardo establishing himself as a top-class keeper.
Boavista won the league by one point – the retired Timofte flew back from Romania for the end-of-season celebrations.
Now more savvy in Europe, Boavista had the measure of Borussia Dortmund and Dynamo Kyiv in the subsequent Champions League, drawing twice with Liverpool – but fell to Manchester United at the next stage.
The following season, still under Pacheco, Boavista overcame Paris Saint-Germain and Málaga in the UEFA Cup, keeper Ricardo scoring the decisive penalty in quarter-final spot-kicks over the Spaniards.
After the first leg of the semis, a final with city rivals Porto seemed tantalisingly close. Boavista strode out in the home match against Celtic with an away goal in the bag. Dreams of an all-Porto final ended thanks to a solitary late strike from Henrik Larsson – and the Pacheco era with it.
He would return in sadder times at the rebuilt and renamed Estádio do Bessa XXI. In financial jeopardy despite the sale of home-produced players such as Nuno Gomes and Raul Meireles, Boavista were implicated in a nationwide refeering scandal that shook the Portuguese game.
Forcibly relegated one division then two, Boavista welcomed back João Loureiro, club president in previously successful times, who assuaged creditors and, in 2014, persuaded the footballing authorities to invited the Panthers back to the Primeira.
A 2001 title-winner here as a player, coach Petit now has to blend a team of Senegalese, Brazilians and young Chinese prospect Wei Shihao to survive the return to the top flight.
The field of dreams – and the stands around it
Built for Euro 2004, the Estádio do Bessa XXI stands beside the site of the old Campo do Bessa, the old-school ground that had served Boavista from 1911 to 1999.
Only modernised once during that time, in 1972, Boavista’s ground had served its purpose and was in urgent need of a complete overhaul.
Unfortunately, most of these rebuilding costs were borne by Boavista – with serious financial implications.
Four years after staging three Euro 2004 group matches, the new stadium witnessed the demise of its host club, eventually demoted two divisions.
With Boavista back in the Primeira in 2014-15, the Estádio do Bessa XXI is at last hosting top-flight football again – although average attendances fall way short of the 28,000 capacity.
Its seats done out in chequerboard style to match the club colours, the stadium comprises north and south stands, bancada norte and sul, behind each goal, the bancada nascente (east stand) with VIP seats along one sideline, and the bancada poente (west stand) opposite with the press box.
The main entrance is on Rua O 1 de Janeiro, by a bizarre installation of a panther scaling a high black-and-white scaffolding, an artistic interpretation of the 2001 title win.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
The nearest metro station is Franços but it’s a tricky walk to the stadium.
It’s easier to alight at the stop before, the transport hub of Casa da Música, then take buses 202, 208 or 501 from the BCM3 stop there, three stops to Av do Bessa. From there, take Rua O 1 de Janeiro on the other side of the road – it’s a 5min walk to the stadium.
Alternatively, from stop BCM1 by the Casa da Música metro station, bus 503 runs along Avenida da Boavista three stops to Bessa, closer to the ground at its southern end.
It’s also a pleasant 15min walk from Casa da Música metro station down to Praça Mouzinho de Albuquerque, then right along Avenida da Boavista until Rua O 1 de Janeiro on the right.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
The main ticket office is by the office on Rua O 1 de Janeiro. Availability is not a problem on match days. Prices are around €10 behind the goals (bancada norte/sud) and €15-20 along the sidelines (bancada poente/nascente).
what to buy
Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts
Opened during the pandemic, the Loja Axadrezeda by Kelme (Tue-Fri 1pm-8pm, Sat 9am-1pm, match days) sits in a row of shops just behind the stadium on Rua de O Primeiro de Janeiro. Part Boavista club shop, part showcase for Spanish sporting goods company Kelme, it fills a long-needed gap in the market.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
The atmospheric little supporters’ bars that once ringed the Campo do Bessa disappeared with the old stadium.
Along Avenida da Boavista, at No.1210 halfway between the rond-point of Praça Mouzinho de Albuquerque and the stadium, the club runs its own Bingo Hall, with a large lounge bar.
Further up, at No.1430, the evening-only Taberna do Zé by the newly opened Crowne Plaza Hotel is a fun, party bar for post-match (and late-night) revelry.
The Estádio do Bessa XXI is now ringed by upscale hotels. The nearest, the BessaHotel Boavista just off Rua O 1 de Janeiro, contains the upscale BBar by the lobby, with two flat-screen TVs showing sport.
At the stadium, by the main entrance on Rua O 1 de Janeiro, the delight café (closed Sat eve and Sun) is pretty featureless but for a Boavista scarf behind the bar.
Inside the ground, VIPs may access the Bar Panorâmico in the east stand, the bancada nascente, the east stand.