«I can feel what FC Porto players are experiencing right now»

Sérgio Conceição can join an elite group: the coaches who celebrated an FC Porto title at Benfica’s stadium. So far, only two have managed to do it: Mihaly Siska, in 1940, when he celebrated in Amoreiras, and Villas-Boas, in 2011, he who left Luz in the dark.

In the first case, FC Porto beat Benfica by 3-2, in the last round, and held the first place in the face of the threat of Sporting. In the second case, FC Porto won 2-1, secured a 16-point lead with five games to go and regained the title lost last season.

Curiously now, as at the time, FC Porto has a charismatic coach again.

Henrique Dias Faria was born in 1914, had been a friend of Siska in his youth and was 97 years old when Villas-Boas was champion at Luz. Deep down he was the living memory of the two titles won at Benfica’s home.

So at the time, in 2011, he confessed to morefootball that Villas-Boas and Siska were very different, but essentially the same.

“Both are very tripeiros. Siska was not born a tripeiro, but he fell in love with this, with the people and stayed here in Porto until the end. He loved the city and the club. Like Villas-Boas.”

When recalling these words from the then oldest member of FC Porto, it is impossible not to think of Sérgio Conceição. Also he loves the city and the club. And no one doubts that he is very tripeiro.

The coach can add his name to that of two men who have indelibly marked the club’s memory and make this story even more special. Proving that being champion at Benfica’s home, whether at Campo das Amoreiras or Estádio da Luz, is only within the reach of great tripeiros.

It must be difficult for an FC Porto fan, in fact, to find a tastier way to be champion than winning the title at Benfica’s home. For those in doubt, just look at what happened in 2011. It was over a decade ago, but it seems like yesterday.

FC Porto left Lisbon around midnight, arrived at Dragão at 3.30 am and Alameda was still full of thousands of people thirsty to celebrate a special title. The party lasted until after four in the morning, but that night few people slept.

And after all, it was already a Monday, a working day.

“Due to the circumstances of qualifying, it was clear to us that we had to be champions in that game. We knew it would be amazing to be champions at Luz. And so it happened”, says Fernando, currently playing for Sevilla, morefootball.

“It was a very particular game, very specific, one of those games where the coach didn’t even need to do mental work with us. It wasn’t necessary in that situation. We were very clear on what we wanted and what we wanted was to win the game.”

That’s why Fernando says he knows well what’s going on in the soul of the Porto squad at this time. It shouldn’t be too different from what the team felt in 2011 and he was there, holding midfield.

“I can feel what the players are experiencing right now. They are anxious, for sure. What I say is that it will be necessary to control this anxiety. They should only think about winning the game.”

Fernando spent six seasons at FC Porto, played 236 games with the FC Porto shirt and still understands, eight years after leaving Dragão, what a FC Porto feels in his heart. He himself, in that game at Estádio da Luz, felt an enormous desire to avenge the previous season.

Benfica, from the same Jorge Jesus, had been champions, in a season that was marked by the long punishments to Hulk and Sapunaru, after some unfortunate events in the tunnel of that same Estádio da Luz, which started with a kick that Fernando gave in an awning.

“There was a desire to avenge the previous year. There was still a big revolt in the squad, because of what had happened with the Hulk and Sapunaru. That team had a lot of desire to win, for everything that had happened. We felt that we had that obligation to ourselves.”

This year there is no such revanchist fuel, but there is a very strong desire to regain the title of champion and there is also the secret temptation to celebrate the triumph at Estádio da Luz.

Even because they are nights that leave episodes for history.

Nobody thinks of Hulk singing on the bus: «Oh lantern, you took five at Dragão, you will never forget such humiliation, because this year Porto is champion». Or Cristian Rodriguez going up to the Dragão balcony with a huge sign: «I signed for FC Porto in five minutes».

Or Villas-Boas asking the microphones: “And now, are we the best team?”. Or again, another time of Hulk singing on the Dragon’s balcony: «Ohhh, champions without light, champions without light, champions without light…». With a crowd of thousands of people in delirium.

This FC Porto of Sérgio Conceição can live all that again and Fernando knows well what that means in that club: for the fans, for the managers, even for the players. Looking at the current team, the Brazilian midfielder has no doubt that he can repeat 2011.

Not least because he doesn’t have the genius of Hulk, Falcao, James or Moutinho, but there are aspects in which he is better.

«We had players who made the difference at any time, in the squad there was a lot of individual talent. But the current FC Porto mentality is impressive. I really like the mentality of this squad. I think Pepe must have had a decisive role within the team.”

Pepe, yes, and Sérgio Conceição, of course.

The coach who fell in love with Porto, who loves the city and loves FC Porto. Like Mihail Siska and André Villas-Boas.


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