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Sun, Soccer and Sangria; My Portuguese Adventure

Taking the islanders to glory!
Started on 19 December 2015 by BackPostHeader
Latest Reply on 29 December 2015 by BackPostHeader
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8 yearsEdited
The sun beams down on the Portuguese island of Madeira, an ice cool glass of Sangria is next to me. Omar Laska, opposite myself is the chairman of Nacional de Madeira, Rui Alves.

On a humid day, we were sitting outdoors in a quiet cafe by the beach. Alves is wearing a white polo with blue shorts and a chunky watch. I have my sunglasses resting on top of my thick, brown hair. I'm wearing a blue shirt and white shorts, the sounds of the waves washing into the sand fills the background.

''Well, what do you think?''

What do I think? I haven't felt this excited in years, not since Sergio Aguero busted the net against Queens Park Rangers, and that was three years ago. I'm trying desperately to hide my excitement, and take another sip of my drink to hide my smile.


''Portugal has a reputation for giving acclaim to young coaching talent. Jose Mourinho, Andres Villas Boas. It could be your name next.''

''Alright, let's do this. Where do I go to get this thing signed?''

''Nowhere, I have the contract here. Would you like to borrow my pen?''

''Of course''

So the contract is signed, Alves looks pleased as I shake his hand. I can feel the sweat on palm, as the ink dries on the pristine paper. There are a few onlookers but none seem too interested in the goings on, as Alves walks away to his car my mind drifts to Mourinho. How he took Porto to the Champions League eleven years ago. And if I can reach similar levels, or perhaps greater, take the island club to the top of Portuguese and European football...
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8 yearsEdited

Nacional appoint new boss; Jones set to be youngest ever manager in European football

Nacional Madeira have taken the bold step of appointing 30 year old Omar Laska as their new manager, after parting company with Manuel Machado, who resigned in his role as Head Coach.
Machado resigned after almost three years in charge of Nacional.

The Moroccan is a relative unknown in world and Portuguese football. Having coached the Nacional B team for the past two seasons being his only professional role, he will hope to take the Islanders to new heights and better their 4th place finishes of 2003/04 and 2008/09.

With a young and inexperienced squad at the Estadio da Madeira, optimism is high after 5th and 7th place finishes in the last two seasons. And Funchal is hoping the Moroccan can lead the youngsters to glory.

''We've enjoyed what we've seen from him in the time he's worked with B team, we want the academy to be used and who better to work with them than him?''

~Rui Alves, Nacional da Madeira Chairman

With players like Aires Sousa, Edgar Abreu (pictured above) and Rodrigo Alirio all expected to become first team regulars in the coming season, Nacional are certainly looking to the future with optimism and ambition. But only time will tell if they can deliver on their undoubted promise.
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8 yearsEdited

Nacional da Madeira Transfers

Nacional da Madeira have had a quiet summer, bringing in two players. For a combined fee of just £120,000.

Transfers In

Their first signing was 33 year old versatile midfielder, Kamel Chafni. A fellow Moroccan to Head Coach Laska, Chafni has played most of his 17 year playing career in France for AJ Auxerre (now in Ligue 2) with stints at AC Ajaccio and Stade Brestois. Also fairly experienced at international level, Chafni has 14 caps for Morocco and should provide a cool, experienced head for the young Nacional squad.

The second signing was Dudu from Brazilian lower league side, Santo Andre. After the exit of star man Ali Ghazal to Hoffenheim a new defensive midfielder was needed for Laska's 4-3-3 formation. With just one other player in that position in the first team squad, Dudu was drafted in to provide more depth. And at just 21 has the ability to be a part of the first team setup at the Funchal club for the next decade.

Transfers Out

For the lack of activity in players arriving, there were plenty of faces exiting the Estadio da Madeira. None more bigger than Egyptian international, Ali Ghazal. Who, after three years service in Madeira, was sold to 1899 Hoffenheim for a near club record £3,200,000 after failing to impress Laska in pre season.

The next biggest departure was Joao Aurelio, who was sold to Championship side Fulham for £650,000. Leaving after 7 years service to Nacional, after the form of wingers Willyan and Witi, along with hot prospect Aires Sousa forced him to move in search of first team football.

Both of the Aurelio twins were sold on this summer, with Luis the latter to exit. Like his brother he was forced to leave Nacional in search of first team football after the talents of Edgar Abreu, Nene Bonilha, Jota and Kamel Chafni in central midfield and, like Joao, Willyan, Witi and Aires Sousa on the flanks meant he left to play more reguarly in the Turkish Super League.

A quiet summer for Nacional, with some familiar faces making way for the fruits of their academy. The old saying goes you can't win anything with kids, but then again a certain bunch of youngsters won something called the Champions League in 1999...

All Nacional da Madeira transfers 2015/16 Summer Transfer Window

Nacional da Madeira 2015/16 Squad Overview

Contuining our coverage on Nacional, we preview the Madeirans squad for the upcoming 2015/16 Liga NOS season.

In between the sticks for Nacional are three very strong keepers. Rui Silva looks set to lock down the number one spot from Brazilian Gottardi after impressing in pre season, just 21 Silva, like most of the Nacional squad, is young and looks set to be a fixture in the Nacional team for the next decade. The backup goalkeeper is equally strong. Gottardi has been first choice since his arrival from Leiria in 2012 but now faces a fight for his place, only 30 years old and still the second oldest player in the squad he will provide stiff competition for Rui Silva and Kevin Sousa. Sousa is the final goalkeeper in the squad, the Cape Verdean international is another young shot stopper (21) and provides good cover for Silva and Gottardi but he's unlikely to be anything more than a backup at Nacional.

The defence is an area of great promise, with Rodrigo Alirio, Miguel Rodrigues and Rui Correia all looking to affirm their status as starters. Captain Zainadine Junior and Sequeira both provide quality in the full back positions and backups Nuno Campos and Mauro Cerqueira aren't bad either. If they can perform well and consistently then Nacional should be a tough nut to crack this season.

In midfield there is no shortage of creativity, with Jota, Edgar Abreu, Nene Bonilha and Kamel Chafni all bursting with creative ability. Abreu and Bonilha have started most games in pre season, but Jota has shown some moments of class and should push them to their best. In the defensive part of the midfield Dudu looks like an absolute bargain and a great foil for the more offensive players in the middle of the park, Boubacar Fofana will play second fiddle to the Brazilian and is solid backup.

Only one player is over the age of 23 in the Nacional attack, with an array of talent. Possibly the biggest strength of the team is where the youngest man in the squad plays. 16 year old Aires Sousa is the jewel of the Nacional academy, among several talented prospects Sousa stands out and the Nacional fans will be hopeful of Sousa showing his talent this season. He isn't the only quality wideman in the squad though, with 21 year old Brazilian Willyan in his second season and 19 year old loanee Witi back for another. The latter having a £70,000 could signal his loan move being made permanent before long. In the striker role Wanderson joins from Parana and loan signings Gustavo Adebayor and Soares both capable backups.

With quality all over the pitch it looks like it could be a fruitful campaign for CD Nacional da Madeira. It may perhaps be too far for Europeean qualification, but you never know.

Predicted finish:

The first game; Nacional Vs Benfica

When I first cast my eye over the fixture list I was drawn to our opening game, away to the champions. A visit to the Estadio da Luz. To play Benfica.

The air was warm as the team and I walked through the corridors to the changing room. Fully focused on the task ahead. The eyes of the media, the scrutiny, would be on us.

''Okay everyone. They'll all be watching us today, waiting for us to slip up. So you show them what you're made of! Show all the doubters that we are the real deal!''

''As I told you all, the team is; Rui Silva, captain, Miguel Rodrigues, Rui Correia, Sequeira, Ali Ghazal, Edgar Abreu, Nene Bonilha, Witi, Willyan...and Gustavo Adebayor.''



''Welcome to Lisbon, this is the Esatdio da Luz you are watching the champions against the islanders. Benfica Vs Nacional.''

''The teams for tonight's game are in. Benfica line up with a 4-2-2-2 playing; Julio Cesar, Eliseu, Jardel, Luisao, Andre Almeida, Andreas Samaris, Ljubomir Fejsa, Nicolas Gaitan, Pizzi, Jonas and Kostas Mitroglu.'

''Nacional start with a 4-3-3 playing; Rui Silva, Sequeira, Rui Correia, Miguel Rodrigues, Zainadine Junior, Ali Ghazal, Edgar Abreu, Nene Bonilha, Witi, Willyan and Gustavo Adebayor.''

''It's kick off time, Benfica will get the game underway kicking from left to right. This game promises to be an interesting spectacle.''

10min ''Willyan takes the corner. In to Rui Correia, referee blows for a foul...and oh my word! It's a Nacional penalty! Andre Samaris has been penalised for a high foot challenge! It's Willyan, the man who's corner lead to the foul, to take it...''


I could scarcely breath I stared at Willyan, his eyes fixated on the ball. The stadium was heaving withe sounds of whistles and jeers as he stepped up.


''Its! Straight down the middle, smashed into the roof of the net Nacional lead in the capital!''

I shook my fists in delight, before remembering where I was. The team were saluting the travelling support as the Benfica players could only watch on. But it was all about to change...


20min ''Mitroglu on the ball...ooohhh and an awful, reckless challenge from Ali Ghazal! And it's red, no question about it. From behind, two footed, took the man. Ghazal is off!''


As soon as I saw the tackle, my head went into my hands. Ghazal walked off the pitch. Head down, I raised my arms in a gesture that asked ''really?''. He just kept walking.


32min ''That red card has really left Nacional in the lurch, Benfica are swarming all over them. Mitroglu...gets the better of Rodrigues, to Gaitan at the back post! 1-1 Gaitan taps it in, that was coming.''


I turned away and grimaced in frustration, it was deserved but it didn't make it feel better. The home fans roared in delight as my players looked crestfallen.


36min ''Nacional are camped in their own half right now, Benfica applying all kinds of pressure on the Madeirans. It seems like a case a of when. Not if.''

46min ''Fejsa cuts inside...but his shot fizzes harmlessly into the arms of Rui Silva. Who punts it upfield, and with that the referee blows his whistle for half time. Nacional took an early lead, but when Ali Ghazal was sent off. The champions showed their quality, half time in Lisbon it's Benfica 1-1 Nacional.''


''You've worked really well so far, I'm impressed with your work ethic out there. If we can keep our shape then we'll get a result. Rui you were oustanding, Edgar, Boubacar keep working. Up front keep pressing, you'll find an opening eventually.''


45min ''The teams are out, the fans back in their seats, the managers in their technical areas. Nacional kick off, the second half is underway.''

60min ''Corner ball, taken by Gaitan. Jonas flicks it, saved by Silva! Mitroglu tooks it in! They've held so firm in the second half, but the Greek striker Kostas Mitroglu goves the champions the lead with the rebound!''


I turned to the bench and signalled to Wanderson.

''You're on''

My Brazilian striker sprang off his seat and was ready in a flash, the electronic substitution board flashed up with a red number 9 and a green 10. Adebayor looked out of it as he trudged off.

''Go for it, 100% show me why you should start!''


67min ''Almeida...Sequeira and Witi tracking. Oohh lovely ball back to Gaitan, plenty of space curls it! Excellent save! Rui Silva with a brilliant save, fingertipped round the post!''

70min ''Still Benfica on top, but Nacional are creeping back into the game. Mora...cross in....3-1! That should be game over, Jonas with the volley at the back post, poor defending from Witi.''


I sank in my seat, we were resigned to defeat. The team were put out, I shook my head as I looked to the heavens in disbelief.


92min ''Silva takes the goal kick...there it is. Full time, Benfica run out deserved winners in the opening game of the season. Nacional just couldn't keep up after going down to ten men, final score at the Estadio da Luz. Benfica 3-1 Nacional da Madeira.''


After applauding the travelling fans we walked back into the away dressing room. After everyone had sat down I gave my post match team talk.

''I can't fault you after that, you worked hard and that's all I ask. Remember though, there's still 33 games left this season. This is just one game lads.''

You are reading "Sun, Soccer and Sangria; My Portuguese Adventure".

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