The streak started in late October. Canelas 2010, an unheralded amateur soccer team, suddenly could not stop winning. It went 10 straight matches without dropping a point, without so much as conceding a goal, a surge that brought the prospect of promotion out of its local league and into the comparative big time of the national third division.
It was the sort of run that would, in normal circumstances, bring the professional scouts flocking, marveling at this small-time miracle. Nobody came to see Canelas, though. Nobody could. There was nothing to watch. Though each of those results was officially recorded as a 3-0 Canelas win, none of the matches actually happened. After a scoreless game with Padroense on Oct. 23, Canelas did not play again in 2016. Its players were told they were too violent on the field, too intimidating to referees. They became a team without opponents, one an entire league was afraid to play. It is unfair,” said Fernando Madureira, the Canelas captain. We are not a violent team.
We play the same as everyone else: We do not want to lose, we run, we fight for the ball, and we give everything on the field.” That is not how the club’s opponents see it. In October, the presidents of the league’s other teams held a series of clandestine meetings. Eventually, all but one decided his team would refuse to play Canelas. Porto’s local soccer association informed the teams of the consequences — a fine of 750 euros (just over $800) for each game missed and a walkover win for Canelas — but they stood firm. There is coercion, intimidation, and referees do not have the courage to write reports that say what has really happened,” said Manuel Gomes, the president of Grijo, one of the teams that called for the boycott. These problems have dragged on for years, and they are very serious. We have decided something has to be done.” Their justification came in the form of a smattering of YouTube videos showcasing Canelas’s apparently gratuitous acts of violence — karate kicks, two-footed lunges — from previous games. In the Super Dragons, there are good guys and bad guys,” he said. We have drug dealers, killers, but good people, too. Everything we have in society, we have in the Super Dragons.” He is adamant, though, that the group’s members should not be prevented from playing just because they are ultras.
It would be discrimination if you did not let an African, a Gypsy or a Chinese person play,” he said. So why is it different for a Super Dragon?” Because of the on-field violence? The videos on YouTube are from two years ago,” he said, dismissing the violence they show. It is from one game. They repeat it all. The media is only interested because of me, the Super Dragons and F.C. Porto. If we were not here, and the same things happened, nothing would be mentioned.” His interpretation of the boycotts — a second, lasting six games, took place this year — is that they were an exercise in cynical politicking, rather than a moral crusade.