LISBON: When Portugal face Greece in the Euro 2004 final today, the thousands of Brazilians who have moved to the country in search of a better life will be amongst the host nation’s most fervent fans.
After each Portuguese victory, Brazilian supporters wearing the green and yellow national colours of their national flag danced samba as they joined in the wild street celebrations, which swept the country.
“On Sunday we will be there again to encourage Portugal. A win will be as much a victory for Brazilians as for the Portuguese,” said 34-year-old Brazilian Silvia Serra.
A victory over upstarts Greece would give Portugal their first major international football title.
But it would also put a Brazilian in the history books by making Luiz Felipe Scolari the first coach to win a European Championship and World Cup with different teams, having guided his native country to a record fifth World Cup in 2002.
Brazil’s connection to its former colonial power deepens with 26-year-old Brazilian-born midfielder Deco whose fancy footwork and tactical expertise have played an important role in Portugal’s sudden surge to the final after their 1-2 defeat by Greece in the tournament’s opening match.
“It is easy to identify with this team since it has a coach and a player who are Brazilian,” said Gustavo Behr, a 28-year-old Brazilian, who has lived in Lisbon for 16 years. “I have always supported Portugal, even when the team played badly. It is a bit tough when Brazil play against Portugal, but I am happy whatever the result.”
Deco, nicknamed “The Magician” by supporters of his club FC Porto, has been playing in the Portuguese League for almost eight years.
He spent his first four seasons in Portugal at minor clubs before joining current European champions FC Porto in the 1998-99 season where he quickly became a crowd favourite.
But he ruffled some feathers after he became a key member of Portugal’s squad since he acquired Portuguese citizenship in March 2003.
Portugal captain and national hero Luis Figo strongly criticised the use of naturalised players even after Deco scored the winner in a 2-1 victory over Brazil in a friendly on his debut for the Portuguese squad last year.
Despite the criticism Deco, like most of the estimated 100,000 Brazilians who live in Portugal, mostly in Lisbon and in the southern Algarve resort province, says he feels welcome.
“A Brazilian who arrives here does not feel like a foreigner, he feels at home,” said Brazilian journalist Duda Guennes, who added that a common language helps unite the two nations.
“Why would I support France or Greece? The emotions wouldn’t be there,” added Guennes, who is based in Lisbon.
Scolari said after his side secured a place in the Euro 2004 semi-finals with a penalty shoot-out win over England that he was aware that victories by the hosts are celebrated as strongly in his native Brazil as in Portugal.
“I feel the joy of the Portuguese. I feel the vibration, the emotions that many here feel. Inside my heart beats everything that the Portuguese feel because this is where I live,” he said.
“But I also know how much celebrating is going on in Brazil right now,” added Scolari, who ran on the pitch holding a Brazilian flag in one hand and a Portuguese flag in the other after the match. – AFP