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by Walter Broeckx
Time to look forward to a visit to Os Arsenalistas as they are called in Portugal or Braga as we and most of the world know them.
I’m not going to take over from Billy the Dog or from Phil who can do a game preview or talk about team selections far better than I but I will try to shed a light on some strange things we can find on this rather particular club in Portugal.
Most of us will have heard about their nickname ‘Os Arsenalistas’ which means “The Arsenal” in English so I have been told. Their official name is Sporting Club de Braga and they first played in green.
But when their coach Jose Szabo visited Highbury in the 1930s he was so impressed by Arsenal that he convinced the team to change their colours into the Arsenal colours. And since then they are known as Arsenal do Minho or the Arsenal from Minho.
But unlike the real Arsenal they haven’t been that successful. In fact the only real trophy they won in Portugal was the Portuguese FA cup in 1966. So that is a long way since then. But since the middle of the last decade they always qualified for Europe and even won the Intertoto cup in 2008. But this season is the first time they really have got to the Champions League and play with the big boys. And it looks to have cost them a lot of points their league.
Another interesting thing about this club is their stadium. I think this is one of the most strange stadiums you will ever see in Europe. Braga plays in the Estadio communal de Braga.
The capacity of the stadium is 31.154. And it only has two real sides of the pitch where there are stands. The length of the pitch you have two almost identical stands. And the roofs of these stand are kept together with some steal cables (I think) to keep the whole thing together.
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On your right you can see the cliff stand.
Behind one goal there is a big cliff visible. And on the other side you have a hill. So no stands behind the goal. In a way it reminds me a bit of the period when we were rebuilding the North Bank during the 90s. I think we all can remember the big picture that was covering the works in those days and made it look as if there was a stand behind it. So it will be an interesting stadium to play in and in a very “natural” environment. The nickname of the stadium is the stone-pit. Who could argue with that name when you see the stadium as it really looks like a stone-pit. But the official name for the moment is the Axa Stadium as Axa has bought the naming rights of the ground.
The city of Braga is the owner of the stadium which was built for the European championship in 2004 which was held in Portugal. And SC Braga is paying a rent for this stadium. A monthly rent. And if I can believe my sources SC Braga is paying the amount of 500,00 euro or £428,21 if I take the current exchange rate. So each month they have to pay 500 euro to the city to rent the stadium.
This surely has to be the lowest rent for a football stadium. Each year Braga will have in their yearly account the sum of 6.000,00 euro or £5.138,08 for paying the rent of the stadium. Compare this with what we are paying for our stadium. But on the other hand we can say we own our stadium and Braga are just renting it.
You can take a tour of the stadium but I don’t know if this includes the rent of helmet when you enter the rock side of the stadium. Now I don’t think they get the crowds in their domestic league to further develop the stadium but if they would put stands behind both goals they could have real interesting names like: the Rock End an the Hill stand.
A view from the Rock End towards the Hill stand
A final note from my part on Braga has to be their official website, which is only in Portuguese. Because when I visited the official Braga website , I first thought I entered some kind of Untold website where they did their own ref review with moving images. But no, it was the official website and on this website they had a video running called Erros de arbitragem which means : Arbitration errors. Maybe an idea for Arsenal? I think we would run in to some serious troubles and a conflict with the FA if we would put such a thing on the official website on the front page. We sure could find some images if we would like to do it.
Now… compare and contrast…