Portuguese ‘thugs’ top amateur football league

Canelas (Portugal) (AFP) – A Portuguese football team branded “thugs” and “butchers” have risen to the top of their amateur league after a string of default wins because opponents are too afraid to play them.

The club, Canelas, from the suburbs of Porto, field three members of the ‘Super Dragons’ ultras, an infamous fan group of Portuguese giants FC Porto, including their team captain who goes by the nickname ‘Ape’.

Other clubs in the fourth-tier amateur league are outraged at the tactics of the club but none have as yet filed an official complaint.

The president of a rival club Grijo said Canelas players regularly intimidate opposing players and referees.

“Canelas does not respect the rules, they are thugs, butchers and our players are afraid to face them,” Manuel Gomes told AFP.

But their tactics are paying off. Canelas have won 19 matches so far this season as of the end of January — 13 of them by default because their opponents preferred to pay a fine of 750 euros ($800) rather than play.

That has taken the club to the top of their league, 14 points ahead of their nearest rivals.

Their antics went viral last year when a video posted on YouTube registered more than one million views and showed Canelas players decked out in their white and blue outfits turning a match against opponents from Vila FC into a martial arts exhibition with high kicks to the chest and head, tackles off the ball and dangerous lunges from behind.

After facing Canelas at the start of the season, rival club Padroense refused point blank to show up for the return match with the notorious amateur outfit.

“Canelas players seek conflict, to make threats, even against referees,” said the president of Padroense, Germano Pinho.

Canelas Captain Fernando ‘Ape’ Madureira says they play tough but fair.

“We are an aggressive team that plays with passion. But no one is stepping on the pitch with a gun or a stick,” said Madureira, who has a masters degree, as he lay stretched out on a massage table before a home game against Candal, the first team that agreed to play Canelas in over two months.

“In the beginning we just wanted to score some points, now we want to be promoted because no one wants to play against us,” said the 41-year-old.

If Canelas win the league they will have a chance to enter a playoff to enter the third tier, where they could play in the Portuguese Cup — potentially against FC Porto.

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