Historic Portuguese patriots and pride of Madeira

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

The only Madeiran club with a Portuguese title to its name, Marítimo are justifiably proud of their achievements since winning the first regional league a century ago.

With easily more Madeiran Championships and Cups than city rivals Nacional or União, eight European campaigns and an uninterrupted presence in Portugal’s Primeira since 1985, Os Verde-Rubros (‘The Green & Reds’) are considered just a notch down from the Big Three on the mainland.

This is pretty impressive considering Marítimo weren’t allowed to compete in the main national league for 40 years until 1973 – and only gained promotion four years later.

Museu do Marítimo/Peterjon Cresswell

Formed by dockworkers in 1910, Marítimo were firmly working-class and, as also opposed to then royalist rivals Club Sports da Madeira, firmly Portuguese. The red and green relate to the national flag that hadn’t yet been adopted – club members supported the overthrow of the monarchy in Lisbon around the time of Marítimo’s foundation.

Winning the inaugural Madeira Championship in 1916-17, Marítimo had the pick of Funchal’s best young players, some formed at partner team União. Disagreement between the two clubs led to a suspension of the tournament and a rivalry that stands a century later – although the rise of moneyed Nacional changed the dynamic of this island duopoly.

As regular winners of the island league, Marítimo were often the team sent from Madeira in the national play-offs of regional champions. In 1926, Os Verde-Rubros beat title-holders Porto 7-1 in the semi-final, then Belenenses 2-0 to lift their only Portuguese crown. The game only lasted 50 minutes as the Belém opposition walked off in protest at refereeing decisions.

Museu do Marítimo/Peterjon Cresswell

The triumph earned Marítimo the new nickname O Maior das Ilhas (‘The Greatest of the Islands’) you still see on T-shirts today.

In 1934, the islands were excluded from the newly created Portuguese League due to the logistics of travel – previous regional play-offs had all taken place on the mainland. Teams from Madeira and the Azores were allowed to compete in the Portuguese Cup, playing off in exotic regional preliminaries before facing inevitable defeat a long way from home.

The Madeiran Championship and Cup were monopolised by Funchal’s main three, based for many years at the one stadium of Estádio dos Barreiros, purchased by Nacional in 1927. Before then, Marítimo had played at a pitch overlooking the Atlantic on Rua Dom Carlos I, where a club shop still stands today.

Museu do Marítimo/Peterjon Cresswell

By 1973, with the building of a new terminal at Funchal Airport and new runway, the Portuguese FA accepted Madeiran clubs into the mainland fold. Within four years, Marítimo had gained promotion to the Primeira Divisão, the play-off win over Feirense packing the Barreiros beyond capacity.

Still semi-professional, Marítimo failed to compete with the big boys until the arrival in 1991 of young Brazilian coach Paulo Autuori. Bringing high-scoring striker Edmilson from his previous club, Nacional, Autuori led Marítimo to the top five, a Portuguese Cup final and Europe. Fabrizio Ravanelli scored all three goals in Juve’s aggregate win of 3-1 in the UEFA Cup of 1994-95.

Even after Autuori’s departure for Brazil, then Benfica, Marítimo continued to challenge. Leeds were twice visitors in the O’Leary era, the Yorkshire side requiring penalties at the Barreiros to go through in 1998. In 2004, it was Rangers who beat Marítimo on penalties at Ibrox.

Estádio do Marítimo/Peterjon Cresswell

Despite regular top-five finishes, Marítimo saw average gates dwindle below 5,000 as Nacional gained prominence, having moved out of the Barreiros to their own stadium way up in Choupana. Feeling left behind, Marítimo looked to improve and modernise the club’s infrastructure. A club museum was a first step.

Eventually came the gradual rebuilding of the Barreiros, now called Estádio do Marítimo. The renovation being completed in December 2016, while still only partly functional it hosted the club’s two most successful runs in Europe, to the Europa League play-offs in 2010 and then the group stage in 2012. The first involved an 8-2 over Bangor City, the second, two tight draws with Newcastle United. Striker Fidélis, one of many Brazilians on Marítimo’s books in recent times, scored in both games.

With his compatriot, Dyego Sousa, still racking up the goals and a stadium back to 10,000 capacity, Marítimo are now looking for a return to Europe after five long years away.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Perched halfway up one of Funchal’s many, many slopes, the intimate Estádio do Marítimo offers fine views of the city from two of its stands, all four being built anew over the course of seven long years. Due to be ready for December 2016, this may be another missed deadline, but at least capacity is creeping up to the proposed 10,600 mark.

The spiritual home of football in Madeira, the original Campo dos Barreiros was a basic ground on a plot purchased by Nacional in the mid-1920s. Opened in 1927, it was home to both Nacional and Marítimo. Rebuilt as a stadium in 1957, it then accommodated União as well.

This was one of those atmospheric little grounds, the kind you used to find in Palma, Mallorca or pre-Euros Faro, crammed in between residential streets and attracting bemused holidaymaking Brits.

Estádio do Marítimo/Peterjon Cresswell

Though a move to chic Praia Formosa was mooted early on, laudably Marítimo decided to stay put and rebuild, Nacional having long flown the nest and União following on. As trickles of money came in, so each stand was slowly constructed, capacity reduced to a few thousand as the process wore on.

With Madeira so far from the mainland, visiting support tends to be quite minimal and the ground usually full of Marítimo fans – unless it’s the Dérbi da Madeira with Nacional.

The stadium is neatly divided into the Bancadas Poente (formerly Central and most recently opened) and Nascente along the sidelines, and Norte and Sul behind each goal.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

If you’re staying at any of the many tourist hotels dotted behind the ferry terminal, the stadium is a steepish stroll past the junction of Largo da Paz and up. From the city centre, it’s about a 15-20min walk along main Avenida do Infante to Largo da Paz.

Several buses run along that route, although the 8 and 45 turn up Rua da Pita to the Tennis Club beside the stadium. The 8 is regular and sets off from Avenida do Mar/Alfândega, near the O Avô football bar in town. The Tennis Club is seven stops. The 45 is also frequent, setting off two stops further towards the stadium at Rua Conselheiro. It also passes by the other side of the ground, on Rua dos Barreiros.

A taxi from town shouldn’t be more than €6.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Only the big matches sell out so buying on the day from the windows on Rua Dr Pita and Rua dos Barreiros shouldn’t be a problem – but don’t leave it too late. If the opposition is Benfica, Sporting, Porto or Nacional, then visit one of the three Marítimo shops, Loja do Marítimo, the most convenient being at Rua Dom Carlos I 14 by the seafront in town, right by the cablecar station and the Madeira Story Centre.

For lesser opposition, admission is €15-€20. For a big name or the derby, you’ll pay €30. Either at the store or at the stadium, it’s cash-only and there are no online sales.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The club’s main outlet, Loja Store, is at Rua Dom Carlos I 14, beside the small seafront park that was Marítimo’s first pitch. As well as replica shirts and T-shirts (‘I Heart Marítimo’), you’ll find red-and-green jester hats, plastic macs (it does rain in Funchal) and bottles of Marítimo-branded sweet Madeira wine – plus a lovely illustrated history of the club, ’85 Anos da História do Marítimo’.

There’s a Nike/Barreiros Store at the stadium and another small outlet at the club’s office at Rua Campo do Marítimo, way up in Santo António, only accessibile by car.

club Museum

Explore the club inside and out

The wonderful Museu do Marítimo (Mon-Fri 9.30am-1pm, 2.30pm-6pm, match days) tells the detailed story of the club from its earliest beginnings, with documentation in English, a whole wall of trophies and rare artefacts such as pre-war membership books and archive photos of historic line-ups.

Located by the Tourigalo bar where Rua da Levada dos Barreiros meets Rua dos Barreiros near the north-west corner of the ground, the museum is being moved to a new home within the stadium itself.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Easily the best choice is at Rua Dr Pita 42, near a local school. The Taberna dos Barreiros is a regular bar, with Marítimo, Nacional and other Primeira scarves on the ceiling, a vintage table-football table with Benfica-Porto line-ups and a bloody big tap of dangerously cheap Madeiran Coral beer. Alongside, a covered terrace overlooks the floodlights. Nearby, the Tennis Club serves beers and coffees.

On the other side of the ground is a couple of modest cafés on Rua da Levada dos Barreiros, including the standard Tourigalo, which does extremely cheap lunches if you’re here during the week.

There’s also a bar at the ground and a panoramic restaurant has been promised at some point.