Max O'Connell's winning Year Abroad competition entry: Sporting Win after Nineteen Years

After entering a competition, year abroad student, Max O'Connell wins first place.

15th February 2022
Credit: PxHere
For my year abroad, I spent my time in the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. A city full of diversity and culture, colours and great food and little did I know, a huge passion for football. I had heard mentions of one of Lisbon’s football teams, ‘Sporting Lisbon’, but knew almost nothing about the rivalries of the Portuguese Premier League (Primeira Liga).

One day I had heard more mentions than normal, even from foreigners to say that Sporting had won the league after 19 years! I was also informed if the traditional celebrations that would take place – a parade down the streets from the stadium to the centre of the city, with the players parade. My friends and I had little interest in this but were already out in the city so decided to see what it was all about.

We were incredibly surprised to see and hear thousands of fans flooding the streets of Lisbon. With flares, chants and horns booming through the city, there was no single quiet place to hide from it all. The sporting colours of green and white covering the street, it was an incredible sight.

As the evening turned to night the celebrations only grew louder as me and my friends stayed out. I had not seen so many people in one place since before even the pandemic, the park leading down to the centre statue was so filled that you could no longer see the grass. The atmosphere was so unbelievable it felt like a dream. You could almost feel the relief and happiness coming from the Portuguese people – regardless of whether they were huge fans or not – coming out of a national lockdown, being able to all come together and celebrate something so wonderful.

As we spent time out, we saw many news camera crews out – with some of my friends trying to get in frame! We also heard that it was the tradition that the players would do a tour round the city after the match and finish at the centre statue – Marques de Pombal. Although we did not stay out this late (apparently the players came at 4 in the morning), my walk home followed the route that the fans did.

As I made my way home, I saw couples, families, groups of young people all coming together to celebrate – although I am neither a football fan nor Portuguese, it was still an unbelievable sense of togetherness and energy that I had not felt or seen for many many months. As I reached my apartment, I realised the celebrations would pass by and I watched out my window for a little longer to absorb the atmosphere.

This event stood out for me from my year abroad because I had never experienced anything like it in my life – to be in the capital of a country when their football team wins the national league. Even more so due to the fact that the team had not won in nearly two decades. To be part of all the chants, all the media and all the emotion is something I am never going to forget.

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