LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

FC Vizela

Vizelenses enjoy a rare spell in Portuguese Primeira

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

When Futebol Clube de Vizela put five past little Vilafranquense one bright day in May 2021, sealing promotion for the hosts and condemning the visitors to relegation, it brought top-flight football to a sleepy community in northern Portugal for the first time since 1984.

Not that much sleep was happening in Vizela that night. The main square filled with celebratory flares, singing and dancing, nearly all participants far too young to remember that solitary season in the Primeira nearly 40 years before.

Older supporters wondered whether Álvaro Pacheco, named Coach of the Year for the division, could keep the momentum going, and hold on to the key players who took Vizela up. In the end, the answer was yes, multi-capped Portuguese youth international Raphael Guzzo, who scored two that day in May, showing just enough midfield savvy to keep the club above the relegation zone.

FC Vizela mural/Drummond Pearson

Winger Kiko Bondoso, also on the scoresheet against Vilafranquense, hit Vizela’s first goal of their top-flight football campaign, then several others, while alongside him, former LA Galaxy youth player Alex Mendez grew into the role to ink his name on almost every teamsheet.

Pushovers on the road, the team proved tricky to beat at their home of the Estádio do Futebol Clube de Vizela, a 6,000-capacity ground revamped for the top flight. Here, despite the departure of Álvaro Pacheco in late 2022, Vizela aimed to establish a firm foot in the Primeira.

It had been long enough, after all. Founded on New Year’s Day, 1939, FC Vizela joined the Braga Football Association a year later. Playing in the regionalised Segunda Divisão for two seasons in the 1940s, Vizela soon had a home ground thanks to local lottery winner Agostinho de Lima, but it would be 40 years before the Vizelenses reached the same heights again.

Estádio do Futebol Clube de Vizela/Drummond Pearson

It was during a long reign of Carlos Alfredo Santos – rally driver, fireman, furniture entrepreneur – as club president through the 1970s and 1980s that Vizela raised their game. On the pitch, the Vizelenses topped the Northern Division of the Segunda Divisão to reach the Primeira in 1984, where an inexperienced side shipped far more goals than any other side. A 9-1 defeat to eventual champions Porto included five strikes from goal machine Fernando Gomes.

Off the pitch, Santos bowed out by overseeing the opening of a new stadium, the Estádio do Futebol Clube Vizela, unveiled with a friendly match against Boavista. Vizela trod water in the third flight through the 1990s and most of the 2000s, until two straight promotions from 2019 onwards led to those celebrations in the town’s main square.

Behind the scenes, Hong Kong money had changed the logistic at Vizela since 2016. Headed by president Diogo Godinho, the club had transformed from 100% amateur to a public limited company with a professional infrastructure, including the installation of floodlights and three training pitches.

Estádio do Futebol Clube de Vizela/Drummond Pearson

Vizela had already signalled their intent by reaching the Segunda in 2016-17, losing in the promotional play-offs the following two seasons, ironically both times to Vilafranquense. Manager of Fafe, who had finished just behind Vizela, Álvaro Pacheco was persuaded to move across in 2019, and promised the budget to take his new club one higher.

In the end, the pandemic curtailed the league season and Vizela gained promotion eight points ahead of Fafe, with the campaign only two-thirds over. In a very tight race for the top, goals by veteran Brazilian Cassiano, who had spent the previous season at Boavista, made the difference, and he continued his run against top-flight defences in 2021-22.

His departure for Saudi Arabia ushered in the arrival of young Montenegrin international Milution Osmajić and suddenly, Vizela were looking fairly comfortable in mid-table despite the departure of Álvaro Pacheco.

A third straight season in the Primeira in 2023-24 promised much. Captain Samu, a squad player at Boavista when still a Portuguese U-19 international, still anchored the midfield and former PSG reserve striker Samuel Essende from the Paris banlieue spelled goals. But Vizela struggled under little-proven Spanish coach Pablo Villar, replacing him with former Deportivo La Coruña trainer Rubén de la Barrera in a bid to stay afloat by May.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

Neat, compact and intimate, the Estádio do Futebol Clube de Vizela comprises two stands along the long sidelines, the main Bancada Poente, laid out in two tiers, and the single-tier Bancada Nascente opposite. Both have limited cover from the rain, with a roof running over the upper rows of blue seating.

Capacity is 6,100 and rarely tested.

getting here

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

If you’re coming to Vizela by train, the station is on the stadium side of town, meaning a steep 15min walk up Rua da Vinha then Rua do Bacelo. 

If you’re in town already, then walk up main Rua Dr Abilio Torres until you pass the station. Allow 20-25mins. A taxi is the only realistic means to get to the stadium otherwise.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

For fixtures against major opposition, it may be best to arrange tickets online – otherwise, turning up on spec and queuing at the bilheteira shouldn’t be a problem.

For as long as Vizela are in the Primeira, a decent seat over the halfway line in the Bancada Nascente should be €10-€15, one towards the outer rows of the main Bancada Poente slightly cheaper.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The Loja FC Vizela (Mon-Fri 10am-12.30pm, 2pm-7pm, match days) by the club offices at the stadium stocks a modest range of replica shirts, currently sky blue with dark-blue shorts and trim, although many fans still sport the classic club colours and dark-blue-and-white stripes.

Scarves, hats and baseball caps can also be picked up, along with badges showing the club logo of the Vizela Romana statue.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Walking up from the station to the stadium, you first pass the standard, local Tasca Da Porta restaurant, with a scattering of tables outside in warmer weather. Further up on Rua da Porta, the Café Sus-Mar features an enclosed terrace, handy for a pre-match drink, while the Café de Pasto Pena de Galo on the  street of the same name is a classic checked-tablecloth locals’ bar and eatery, equipped with a TV and framed Vizela shirt. An extra back courtyard comes into its own in summer, providing panoramic views of Vizela.

A modest match-day stadium bar is tucked behind the main stand.