Estrela Amadora

Community club gets its reward for revival endeavour

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

There’s something quite wonderful about the width of a crossbar helping to elevate Estrela Amadora up to the Portuguese Primeira Liga – unless you’re a Marítimo fan, of course. In June 2023, penalties settled the promotional play-off between the two clubs, one from the crowded northern suburbs of Lisbon, the other from the elegant island retreat of Madeira.

In truth, the Tricolores of Amadora had had the tie all sewn up until a 96th-minute equalising header had broken Estrela hearts in Funchal. As Marítimo’s final spot-kick ricocheted off the woodwork, Estrela had not only gained promotion but justified all the selfless work put in by supporters to revive their disbanded club as a legacy and youth project back in 2011.

The Star was reborn. Estrela (‘Star’) had merged with Sintra further north-west from Lisbon in 2020 to claim a berth in the third tier, then leapt two rungs up the Portuguese league ladder in three years. Before then, the club had spent a decade entangling itself from the legal quagmire of its predecessor’s collapse, bankrupt in 2009, defunct two years later.

Estádio José Gomes/Peterjon Cresswell

The original Estrela, founded in 1932, had been another of Lisbon’s many minnows until the surrounding suburb ballooned in size with an influx in population able to work in town and return home to the tower blocks of Amadora. 

A local football culture developed, typified by later Manchester United star Nani, raised by his aunt on the Santa Filomena estate, and Euro 2000 star Abel Xavier, who actually started his player career at Estrela’s cramped Estádio José Gomes, squeezed between a cluster of railway lines and housing blocks.

But walk around it and you soon get a sense of community, the line of portraits of everyday people displayed behind the West Stand, the classic Portuguese bingo hall, the fruit shop named after one of Estrela’s most decorated managers, Fernando Santos.

Estádio José Gomes/Peterjon Cresswell

The man who led Portugal to win their only major trophy at Euro 2016 also proved himself at this workaday club, keeping Estrela in the higher echelons of the Primeira before Porto hired him in 1998. He later took with him Jorge Andrade, a centre-back formed at Estrela, who would go on to win 51 caps for Portugal.

Estrela first reached the Primeira in 1988, bringing in later Portugal manager Paulo Bento as defensive midfielder for the Portuguese Cup win of 1990 over Farense, his goal sealing a 2-0 win in the replay. The Tricolores even made it through one round of the Cup Winners’ Cup but after the departure of Fernando Santos, consistency slipped and the budget spiralled.

As salaries went unpaid and that Portuguese Cup taken to the pawnbrokers, debts hit €36 million. By the time another promising star was learning his football in the familiar streets of Amadora, his local club was already sinking. The young Rúben Dias, a later Champions League winner with Manchester City, headed to Benfica in 2008 after two years on Estrela’s books.

Estádio José Gomes/Peterjon Cresswell

Following Estrela’s collapse, the phoenix club of 2011 both preserved its legacy and continuing to field youth teams. With enough support from the local community, this situation remained in place until 2018, when a senior side was created, playing at local level.

The 2020 merger with Sintra pushed Estrela into Serie G of the third-flight Campeonato de Portugal, which the new entity duly won ahead of Sporting reserves. After a tricky first campaign in the Segunda, the Tricolores only lost three games in the 2022-23 campaign to set up that fateful play-off with Marítimo.

Completing a quartet of teams from the capital in the Primeira in 2023-24, Estrela is an easy groundhop for visitors to Lisbon. Recently built Reboleira station bookends the blue line on the city’s metro network, providing an easy commute for the many residents of Amadora, the modest densely populated municipality in Portugal. How many Nanis and Xaviers may it yet produce with a top-tier club in its midst?

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

Originally called the Campo de Jogos João Pimenta, the Estádio José Gomes was renamed after the club president of Estrela who died in 1989, just before the Tricolores achieved their greatest triumph, the Portuguese Cup win of 1990. Many refer to it as the Estádio da Reboleira, after the surrounding parish.

A ground of some sort has been here since 1933, when the club was first founded, but in its current form, the stadium dates back to 1957.

Remodelled in 1991, when the club was just getting used to top-flight football, it consists of two long sideline stands, Bancada Central Poente (Gates 4-6) and Bancada Central Nascente (Gate 1), their seats done out in the bright club colours of white, red and green. The only roofing going on is over the VIP and press area at the back of the West Stand, Bancada Central Poente, along Avenida Dr José Pontes.

Away fans are allocated the Bancada Visitante, a corner of the East Stand, Bancada Central Nascente, nearest the north goal, accessed via Gate 2. Usually closed, this end, the Topo Norte, will surely be reconfigured in time for the visits of the Big Three in 2023-24.

The south end is given over to the Portuguese religion of bingo, activities in the hall an essential moneyspinner for the club. Stadium capacity is an all-seated 9,300, by no means the smallest in the Primeira Liga in 2023-24.

getting here

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

From central Restauradores, the journey on the blue line to the terminus at Reboleira takes 25mins, or 10mins from Colégio Militar/Luz by Benfica’s stadium. 

Exit left out of the station on Rua das Indústrias, turning left at Rua Vitor Alves and under the railway lines. You should see the floodlights ahead as the road takes you left but following them still involves a couple of turns onto Avenida Dom José I, and the stadium.

The last service back to town from Reboleira is past midnight.  

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Until recently, getting into Estrela Amadora has been a simple case of bowling up, paying your €10-€15 and settling down for second- or third-tier football. Actually, that’s not quite true – for the vital play-off against Marítimo in June 2023, all tickets were €1 across the board, and all proceeds went to the family of young local gymnast Maria Mendes, left severely disabled after a train crash.

Now that Estrela have hit the big time, the capacity of 9,300 will be sorely tested for the visits of Benfica, Sporting and Porto.

Currently, the club website is being adapted for the 2023-24 season, so online sales are not yet available. For most league and cup fixtures, it will probably be a case of buying admission (€15-€20) from the windows on Avenida Dom José I, in the south-east corner of the stadium. The José Gomes is compact and intimate, and you’ll be right up close to the action wherever you sit.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Beneath the East Stand, Bancada Central Nascente, a modest bar also sells club souvenirs such as gaitas de sopro (€1.50), mini vuvuzelas done out in Estrela colours with the club’s five-pointed star prominent.

More traditional merchandise, caps and scarves, should be available at the ground on match days.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Beside the ground on Avenida Dr José Pontes, the corner Café del Negro is a lovely little spot, displaying an impressive collection of Estrela Amadora scarves down the years, framed shirts and flags. It lays on cheap lunches but is otherwise the ideal pre- and post-match bar serving affordable domestic beer. Seats outside if you can get one.

On the other side of the ground, beneath the East Stand, a little bar dispenses even cheaper beer and little horns for you to blow during the game. Promotion might prompt the club to get the painters, in which case they’d have to take down the random Estrela-themed decor, pictures of the crowd, club shirts, and so on.