LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

GD Chaves

Feisty Flavienses fly the flag for frontier town

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

Every club has its day in the sun. For GD Chaves, this came on May 16, 2010. Then rooted to the bottom of Portugal’s Second Division, Chaves had taken advantage of kindly draws in the Taça de Portugal to win through to the semi-finals.

At home at the Estádio Municipal Engenheiro Manuel Branco Teixeira to then top-flight Naval, Chaves were being held in the first leg 0-0 when a stoppage-time strike from centre-back Ricardo Rocha gave the Flavienses a lifeline.

Up at Figueira da Foz, Chaves fell to an early Naval goal, held on to extra-time, when locally born young right-winger Edu hit two to send his team to their first, and so far, only Portuguese Cup final at the Estádio Nacional. In between, they would be relegated to the third – and Edu would gain the first of five caps at U-21 level as a Campeonato de Portugal player.

At the national stadium, Edu had the chance to make history when he seized on a slip by Porto keeper Helton early in the game. In a moment he’s still living with today, his shot hit the post. The superstars of Porto – Hulk, Radamel Falcao, Bruno Alves – then took control, although Chaves kept the scoreline to 0-2.

Five minutes from time, brought off the bench for his last game for Chaves, striker Paulo Clemente hit one back, and in the chaos of stoppage time, two red cards were issued, one to Chaves semi-final hero Ricardo Rocha, the one to Bruno Alves.

Ironically, a year later, Porto would go on to win the Europa League they qualified for that afternoon at the Estádio Nacional. Chaves, meanwhile, nearly went under, and had to be rescued by music impresario Francisco Carvalho. Married to pop singer Ágata, Carvalho raised the funds to save his local club, who climbed back up the league ladder after long years in the wilderness.

Chaves had been formed in 1949 through the amalgamation of Flávia Sport Clube and Atlético Clube Flavienese, hence ‘Grupo Desportivo’.

The club soon produced a player of real quality, Pavão, a precocious midfielder sold to Porto when only 15. His first game for the senior side a successful one against the great Benfica of Eusébio and Mário Coluna, Pavão was soon called up to the national side and had won six caps by the time he collapsed on the pitch at Porto’s Estádio das Antas. He was 26.

After winning promotion to the Primeira for the first time in 1985, Chaves took advantage of a loophole in the regulations and attracted Bulgarian international Radoslav Zdravkov – back then, the Communist authorities would only allow players of international status to move abroad after they were 30. Zdravkov, having played with Hristo Stoichkov at CSKA Sofia, had faced Maradona’s Argentina at the 1986 World Cup shortly after his 30th birthday.

In Portugal’s Primeira Divisão, he proved deadly, hitting 21 in his second season, making him equal top league scorer alongside Porto’s prolific Fernando Gomes. His exploits allowed Chaves to qualify for Europe for the first and only time, Portugal granted an extra slot in 1987 following the Heysel disaster and ban on English clubs.

In an unlikely match-up, Chaves first went to Ceaușescu’s Romania to face Universitatea Craiova, going 2-0 up before succumbing to a 3-2 defeat. By now, Zdravkov had persuaded his former CSKA and Bulgaria teammate Georgi Slavkov to join him after a forlorn time at Saint-Étienne in France. The Plovdiv-born striker took to Chaves like a duck to water, and hit an early goal in the home second leg against Craiova.

A second was scored by Madeiran winger Vermelhinho, best known for his lob from distance that broke Aberdeen hearts in the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final of 1984.

The Second Round pitted Chaves against a very useful Honvéd side, who would have taken a 2-0 lead back to Budapest but for a late Zdravkov goal. In Hungary, the legendary hosts had a bit too much for the Portuguese visitors, whose European adventure ended at the Bozsik Stadion.

Chaves also spent much of the 1990s in the Primeira but relegation in 1999 was followed by a decade and a half in the second and third tiers, interspersed by that brief day in the sun in 2010.

Missing out on promotion from the Segunda on fewer goals scored in 2015, Chaves were then buoyed by the efficiency of Luís Barry up front the following season. Rewarded by being offloaded to Aves before the Primeira season, Barry was in good company – coach Vítor Oliveira wasn’t kept on either. In the end, it took three coaches but Chaves stayed up in 2016-17 and even shone in 2017-18, goals from Brazilian William pushing the Flavienses towards a European place.

Hitting a slump the following campaign, Chaves seemed destined for another long sojourn in the Segunda before bursting through that spring to make the promotional play-offs in 2022. Combative midfielder João Teixeira, who had played at every level for his country but senior, proved the difference as Chaves snuck past Moreirense in the two-leg decider.

Playing a captain’s role for the club’s return to the top tier in 2022, Teixeira was a steady presence as Chaves crept towards European contention, and his departure for Qatar before the disappointing 2023-24 campaign left the midfield rudderless.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

Built when GD Chaves were founded in 1949, the Estádio Municipal Engenheiro Manuel Branco Teixeira stands on a site that was a simple pitch when used by Atlético Flavienese back in 1924. Back in the 1980s, it could hold 20,000, even 25,000, but its conversion to an all-seater, in the club colours of blue and red, reduced this total by half. The disuse of the Topo Norte end did the rest.

Ironically, when Ronaldo made his international debut here in 2003, the stadium was in a pretty sorry state.

Promotion to the Primeira in 2016 forced several improvements. Today the stadium consists of three stands: a covered main one along one long sideline, the Bancada Coberta; an open one with a few rows of seating opposite, the Bancada Descoberta; and a covered one behind the home goal, the Topo Sul. Capacity is 8,400.

getting here

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

The stadium is pretty close to where the intercity bus drops you, at Av Nunalvares (Monumento), by the Continente supermarket. In fact, Avenida Estádio runs directly from that roundabout, for less than kilometre to the ground.

If you’re in the centre of Chaves, then it’s about the same distance again, up Rua Santo António then Avenida Aliados. A taxi should be a few euros.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Chaves games almost never sell out, although prices rise considerably for the visits of Benfica, Sporting and Porto. The GD Chaves Facebook page is the best place to keep track of what’s going on sale and when – or on the club website. There are no online sales, but advance tickets are distributed from the club secretariat in the days running up to the match, socios getting priority early in the week if the opposition is one of the Big Three.

Buying on the day shouldn’t be a problem but contact geral@gdchaves.pt for confirmation.

For less attractive opposition, you pay €20 for a seat in the Bancada Coberta, €15 in the Topo Sul and €10 for an uncovered place in the Bancada Descoberta. These rates more than double if one of the big boys is in town, €50 in the Bancada Coberta, around €35 in the Topo Sul and €30 in the Bancada Descoberta.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The Loja GD Chaves behind the home end, the Topo Sul, on Avenida Estádio, opens on match days and certain weekdays – check with the club at geral@gdchaves.pt. For 2023-24, the regular home top of blue-and-red stripes features extra stripes within the red – second choice is an unwise explosion of blues, yellows and reds offset by hypnotic patterns. It’s all a far cry from the brave new world of 2022-23, when

stylised images of buildings featured in the red stripes the sponsor was construction firm Reconco – and shapes of doors and windows were superimposed across the yellow front of the change strip, both now collector’s items. Third kit is white with greyish stripes.

Accessories include, bizarrely, perfume, but most will be satisfied with a blue-and-red scarf.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Just past the last turning up Avenida Estádio before the stadium on Avenida Irmãos Rui e Garcia Lopes, the Café Bar Manuel da Praça is a pleasant little pitstop serving classic Portuguese sandwiches, coffee and beer to regulars happy to sit at outside tables in warmer weather.

At the ground, the Stadium restaurant operates during the week too, providing plates of sizzling pork and ribs to hungry carnivores. The standard Musetti stadium bar opens behind the main stand on match days.