I was in peace, sitting and reading a book, when I received a call. I look at my phone and see “SofiaPSC”. I answered and was summoned: Saturday, September 23rd, 6 am, at the door of the Portimão Stadium.
It is already a tradition, started by José Manuel Proença, former Portimonense masseur, that, when the club is in the 1st Division of the National Football Championship, some fans go, promise-paying style, on foot, I repeat, on foot, from the stadium up to the top of Fóia. This is the highest place in the Algarve, in the Monchique mountains, 32 kilometers away.
We were there at the agreed time, and, after waiting for some members who specifically came from Setúbal to participate in this madness, we set off on our way.
We had an “infiltrator” from Atlético Mineiro, from Belo Horizonte, but, coincidentally, the shirt is the same as Portimonense’s. He had also made a promise to go to Fóia if his club was champion... and it was, in 2021. But a promise is a promise and it must be kept, whenever it is. It was two in one, combining the Brazilian promise with the Portimo native.
There were about a dozen of us, between 19 and 68 years old, men and women, and there we went, while the sun didn't rise. One of us was wearing a Cadorin shirt, a former player at the club and this guy is a real living encyclopedia of Portimonense. Games, results, rankings, player names, stories, that's up to him.
And, speaking of stories, legend has it that, when the club was founded, the directors were Sporting fans. That's why we are Portimonense Sporting Clube. But it seems that (just like today?) the majority of members were Benfica fans – and hence the eagle on top of the emblem.
And, for me and for many, as long as this emblem is on the shirts, we will always be “proud” Portimonenses, regardless of the changes the club takes or the excuses they want to make to justify the estrangement that currently exists between the parties. As someone else would say, you know what I'm talking about.
By the way, the impression I have is that most of the partners are foreigners. On the bench in front of me, I have the irreducible Portimoenses (I don't know if you've read Astérix), but, around me, I also have, in addition to more Portuguese, Swedes, Belgians, Moldovans and South Africans, many proudly wearing the equipment and the club scarves.
I think this has a lot to do with the feeling of the “local club” which says a lot to foreigners, while here people are fans of the big three – and only then comes Portimonense.
We walked for kilometers, whilst receiving some messages of encouragement from current and former club players.
I highlight here the most distant one, from Fabrício, a former player, who sent us a video message… from China!!!
It's interesting the dynamic between the athletes and these partners, who show Portimonense's colors along the road, and who, after arriving in Fóia, don't have/had any support to return down here. I lie: there was a year when Monchique City Council provided a bus for us to return.
But, as those who want do more than those who can, we had a car from a family of these crazy people providing invaluable support.
Sorry if this part seems like it has nothing to do with the climb, but it does: as we always took the tar road, it's incredible how much rubbish you find on the sides. Everything, plastic bottles, paper, packaging, remnants of the most incredible things, everything went and, unfortunately, continues to end up there. Does it cost a lot for those traveling by car not to throw their rubbish out the window? Okay, I’ve got it off my chest…
The heat started to get worse, but we received greetings from the (many) cyclists who passed by on their way to Fóia, some, and Monchique, others.
Precisely here, we made a strategic stop, welcoming two more members who came from Lisbon, photos and refueling of minis and steaks. I guarantee they knew it very well, but a promise is a promise, and we had to make it to the hardest part.
With many kilometers on our legs, the punishing heat and almost no shadows, the final climb from the town to Fóia was not easy at all. On top of that, it's all curves and, just when we think we're getting there, there comes another curve, and another, and another...
But, seven hours later, we arrived in Fóia!!! It left our little bodies, but we reached 902 meters of altitude, engraved in the rock next to the statue of the cyclist.
Duly celebrated with medronho and cakes, we took the usual photos there. We hope that, next year, there will be more, a sign that Portimonense continues to be among the greats.
Note: the next day, there was a game and we were all there. We might still suffer from pain in our legs, but we had the smiles on our faces of a mission accomplished.