The field of dreams – and the stands around it
The only new-build for Euro 2004, the 30,000-capacity Estádio Algarve was becoming something of a white elephant until Gibraltar needed a home ground for their debut run on the European stage.
The British enclave is only 400km away and then unable to stage European Championship qualifying matches. Their Victoria Ground was too modest, their controversial Europa Point Stadium then in the planning stage.
After witnessing three forgettable games in the Euro 2004 tournament and hosting a string of meaningless international friendlies (Portugal-Panama, anyone?), the Estádio Algarve even lost the patronage of its two most local clubs, equidistant Farense of Faro and Louletano of Loulé.
Preferring Portugal over Spain as a temporary home, the Gibraltar national side played its first full international here in November 2013, in front of a few hundred Gibraltarians. The opponents, Slovakia, put out a second-string side but would not have been expecting to be held to 0-0.
The five Euro 2016 qualifying games played here resulted in 27 goals, all in Gibraltar’s net – but the location within (relatively) easy reach of the beaches of the Algarve meant that Scottish, Irish and German supporters could turn a strange groundhop into a holiday. The attendance for the 6-0 thumping by Scotland was a respectable 12,400, though only 281 officially watched Georgia put three past the hosts.
For their first World Cup qualifying campaign here, Gibraltar at last registered two goals, the one by Anthony Hernandez almost earning a draw against Cyprus before the visitors hit a late winner. With crowds in the hundreds for four of the five fixtures, UEFA relented and allowed Gibraltar to move their subsequent qualifying campaigns back to the Rock, where the FA had installed an AstroTurf pitch and floodlighting at the Victoria Stadium.
Backed by a home crowd, Gibraltar even won a handful of games there, including two friendlies in a row against Liechtenstein and Andorra in November 2022. Gibraltar veterans Roy Chipolina and Liam Walker will be looking for more goals as the national side move back to the Estádio Algarve in 2023 due to further reconstruction of their own Victoria Stadium.
The few Gibraltarians who follow them to Faro are allocated places in the poente inferior along the sidelines, with neutrals accommodated alongside. Opposite, in the nascente superior and inferior central, are the visiting supporters. The north and south ends behind each goal are generally closed off.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
The Estádio Algarve is about 6km north-west of Faro on the IC4 motorway to Loulé. For international matches, a special bus service runs every 30min from the Faro’s main station and the Forum shopping centre.
The stadium is 10-15min walk from the Parque das Cidades rail station on the Algarve line between Faro and Loulé. There are nine trains a day, a journey (€1.40) of only 7mins.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
For Gibraltar games, tickets are available online, at €27 and €32 each, €15 for under-12s. Fans from other national sides should check with their individual associations.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
The other side of the motorway from the stadium, the Marisqueira Galvão serves decent seafood dishes and pre-match beers.
For Gibraltar games, an alcohol-free fan park is set up outside the stadium concourse.