Recent European competitors after a promising spell under their ex-defender Marco Silva, Estoril Praia are now back treading the mid-table waters of the Primeira Liga.
Still, Estoril, representing the beach resort of the same name, provide a pleasant, quick and easy getaway down the coast from Lisbon, top-flight football a cheap train ride away.
Founded by the local casino owner and his influential associates in 1939, Estoril began strongly, reaching the Portuguese Cup final in 1944 and playing in the Primeira until 1953.
Os Canarinhos (‘The Canaries’) looked destined for decades of mediocrity until two old hands saw out their twilight years here in the 1970s. First, Jimmy Hagan, a strict disciplinarian from County Durham, came to Estoril in 1973 after leading Benfica to three straight titles. Then his former charge, Portugal’s own gentle giant from the 1966 World Cup, José Torres, added to 200-plus all-time goals tally after joining Estoril in 1975. Both took turns in the managerial seat, Hagan for two spells.
A regular fixture in the Primeira in the 1970s and 1980s, Estoril sank back to the Segunda, then even the third-flight Segunda B, in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Well travelled coach Ulisses Morais then led the club to two consecutive promotions but it wasn’t until 2012 under Marco Silva that Estoril took up a more permanent residence in the Primeira.
Under Silva, Brazilian goalkeeper Vagner rescued his wayward career, becoming Estoril’s established No.1, behind Canadian-Portuguese centre-back Steven Vitória, midfielder João Coimbra and goalscoring winger Licá. Driven by the momentum of their promotion year, Os Canarinhos finished fifth in the Primeira in 2013 then fourth in 2014, equally their best-ever placing achieved in 1948.
Such impressive league form opened the door to Europe for the first time, two consecutive campaigns in the Europa League bringing the likes of Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven, Panathinaikos and Dynamo Moscow to Estoril. Managing away draws in Spain and Holland, Estoril were far from disgraced but since Silva’s departure and inconsistent league form, it may be some time before Canaries flit around Europe again.
Named after the long-term club director of the same name who served until 1972, the Estádio António Coimbra da Mota is as old as the club itself. It is set on steep Rua Dom Bosco, the climb up from Estoril’s waterfront only viable by bus or taxi.
Renovation in 2010 has allowed the stadium to host other major fixtures, including a full Portugal international in 2015 – a surprise home defeat to Cape Verde Island – and an under-21 game in 2011.
Sadly, average crowds at Estoril are currently around 2,000. With seating on two sides only, the main covered stand opposite the open one alongside Rua Dom Bosco where you’ll find the club shop and ticket office. Capacity is 5,000.
Hourly bus Nos.401 and 407 stops at Rua Dom Bosco opposite the stadium, from Avenida do Lidador and Estoril station respectively, but it’s barely worth the hassle. A taxi waiting outside Estoril station should charge around €5 to the stadium. It’s too steep to walk up from the seafront though walking down is reasonably easy.
Availability is rarely a problem at Estoril and pay on the day is the norm. Average prices are €15, cash only. Covered seats in the bancada coberta are the priciest. Advance tickets are also sold at the shop (see below) – but not via the club’s basic website.
The club shop (Mon-Fri, Sat 2pm-7pm, Sun 10am-1pm, match days) is on main Rua Dom Bosco. All kinds of beach gear bear Estoril’s bright sunburst logo.
There’s a bar/café (Mon-Fri 3.30pm-8.30pm, Sat 8am-5.30pm, Sun 8am-1pm, match days) overlooking the training pitch behind the north goal, decorated with colour photos of Estoril fans and players. The only other option is on the opposite side of Rua Dom Bosco from the stadium: the Espaço Alternativo at No.576 is a standard bar/restaurant.