FOOTBALL: LISBON CLUBS IN MANAGERIAL CRISIS

The managers of Lisbon’s main football clubs, Benfica and Sporting (Spartak’s opponent in this year’s Champions League first round), were today dismissed by their clubs, only for one of them to be reinstated later in the afternoon, after lunch. This weekend, Benfica defeated arch rivals Sporting, the only other club to present any challenge from the capital, by three goals to nil. The result was the dismissal of Sporting’s manager, Augusto Inacio, who led Sporting to their first championship in 18 years last summer, after FC Porto, five times champions, were caught with their horizons fixed more on the Champions League than the national championship – a fate that happens to a lot of clubs. It was even rumoured that Benfica’s manager would take over at Sporting but groups of fans gathered to state that they did not want their arch-rival’s manager, who had celebrated his team’s three goals so emphatically, in their stadium. The result was the reinstatement of Inacio, hours after he was dismissed. This morning, the Benfica manager, Mourinho, had a meeting with the new president of the club, Manuel Vilarinho, requesting a one-year extension to his contract and better financial conditions, within 24 hours. The president refused to accept this attitude which seemed more like blackmail than a well-structured professional request for an extension of contract and refused. Mourinho is now unemployed, as the club’s old hero, Toni, returns as manager. This was the last manager to lead the club to a championship, seven years ago, was a former player and more importantly, is a Benfica supporter. This club has a capacity crowd of 130,000 and is a national institution in Portugal. Elections in Benfica and Sporting take on an air of importance which would rival the Presidential elections in some countries.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey Pravda.Ru Lisbon