Who Are These Jobbers?
Death is inevitable. There is no way around it, at some point it will be our turn. Some of us will go peacefully, others unfortunately not. The time we have on this planet is precious and we should cherish every second of it. Everyone wants to be able to say they did everything they wanted to do before they meet their maker but, the fact of life is that we may simply not be able to.
Before I go to play the big gig in the sky, I’ve always wanted one thing to happen - Sunderland to play in Europe. Just one game, that’s all I want. One sojourn to eastern Europe to see us play some Hungarian dentists or traversing the Atlantic Ocean to lose to a bunch of shepherds from the Faroe Islands.
Of course, Sunderland will never, ever deliver this so we have to settle for a pre-season jolly-up in Portugal.
After a five-year absence, we’re back at the Estádio Municipal de Albufeira (ooh, that sounded pretty good to say) for a double-header against some of the Iberian nation’s finest reserve teams. It is a stadium that has witnessed famous Sunderland fixtures such as a ruthless 1-0 win over Recreativo Huelva and Fraizer Campbell scoring four goals against Hull City.
This time we face two sides that simply love being dissolved - Benfica B and Belenenses SAD. Ol’ Belenenses have only been an official club (in its current guise) since 2018 after it had to break from the original club, C.F. Os Belenenses, due to “enormous financial troubles”. Prior to this it had been a fairly successful side with a league title and three Portuguese Cups to its name.
Once among the oldest football clubs in Portugal, The Order of Christ Cross (that’s a legit nickname, right there) were playing in the Europa League as recently as 2015, getting thoroughly walloped in the group stages.
Nowadays, they can boast former Sunderland legend and goalkeeper who David Moyes allegedly laughed at in training, Mika, pulling on the royal blue jersey. Sadly, it seems the ‘Grace Kelly’ singer can’t get a game for The Bethlehem either.
Benfica B also love a dissolution, as the diddy team of a member of Portugal’s ‘Big Three’ was only brought back to life in 2012. Among their ranks is former Arsenal youngster Chris Willock, who left the bosom of the Emirates in 2017 to sign permanently for the ressie team. There is also the excellently named Godfried Frimpong and highly-rated winger Heriberto Tavares to look out for.
So bring your straw donkey, your inflatable penis and enormous culturally-confused sombrero for some fun in the sun watching Jack Ross’ gorgeous boy.
And remember, death is inevitable.
What’s The Ground Like?
When the Europeans first heard about this revolutionary new game played on the British Isles, it was a concept that excited them. The talk of men and women running around kicking a ball which inexplicably appealed to the working masses. They saw the magnificent stadiums moulded from the mind of Archibald Leitch and thought “we’ll have some of that”.
From the frozen plains of Siberia to the rolling vineyards of southern France, they decided on a template for which every football ground should be created. It will have a grandstand! Good, I like it. It shall have a pristine pitch! We’re on to something here. It will have a running track! Weird flex, but okay. It will have a cage for shot put and hammer throwing! Wait, what?
The result is what the Estádio Municipal de Albufeira (how satisfying is that to say?) looks like. A classic southern European stadium used by local team Imortal, where Liverpool and Reading legend Tiago Ilori began his career, it is a pleasant affair and while it may lack a roof, you can safely assume that the Algarve will not be subjected to the “Accrington treatment”.
How Do I Get There?
Just like any good community football stadium, Estádio Municipal de Albufeira (it really does roll off the tongue) is within reach of the town it represents. It’s perfectly placed for those of you staggering along the strip in the middle of the day.
The stadium is a fairly short walk from the centre of Albufeira. Walk along the main street of Av. dos Descobrimentos and take a left at the roundabout with two git big watches on it. Stroll up R. do Estadio and as you pass over the hill, the ground will come into view.
For you big dawgs that have fitted themselves out with a villa in the sexy surroundings of Vilamoura, the ground is about 10 miles away.
If you’ve hired a car then take Av. Vilamoura XXI out of the town and take a left at the roundabout on to Estr. de Albufeira. Once you arrive at a BP garage, join the M526 heading towards Albufeira. As you come into the town, join R. Beato Vicente de Albufeira and you will find the ground.
There is a local bus service which links Faro to the resort towns. You can hop on the bus at Vilamoura marina which will take you to Albufeira. You can find the timetable here.
Alternatively, just get a taxi, you’re on your holidays after all.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
In my formative years I graced Estádio Municipal de Albufeira to take in a white hot clash between Sunderland and Benfica. As a young and handsome man about town, I felt the need to combat the balmy temperatures during this pulsating clash with a spot of liquid refreshment.
As I gleefully purchased an ice cold can of beer from the vendor I was filled with elation as it was priced at just €1.50. What a stroke of luck I thought until I sampled the liquid in question which resembled what I can only imagine drinking an actual potato is like. Yes, with regret, I had purchased a non-alcoholic beer.
However, tastes change over time and I am partial to the odd Heineken 0.0 of want of an evening. Although knowing Sunderland fans like I do - and British holidaymakers like I do - you may be looking for something a little stronger. Luckily, Albufeira is awash with bars, pubs and everything in between.
The closest bar to the ground is Infante Bar on R. do Estadio which is plastered with football scarves and has plenty of Super Bock on draught. You can be a proper Brit abroad by enjoying a few pre-match bevvies in the archetypal English pub Fat Cats Bar on R. de Dunfermline.
A little closer to the centre of Albufeira you can enjoy a warm welcome and “listen to all the ‘golden oldies’” at Sherry’s Bar on Rua Alves Correia. Sharky’s Bar on Passeio do Ouro is said to do the “the best toasties in the WORLD!!!!”, according to TripAdvisor user dodgerhoddesdon, so what better endorsement could you want?
Albufeira is simply jam-packed with bars, restaurants, clubs and cafes so there will be somewhere to suit your ever-so-high standards. Just watch out for the potato beer at the ground.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
Nothing says “British family holiday” more than Albufeira. We have been flocking to this corner of the Algarve in our droves for years and, hey, why not? It’s not too shabby round here, there’s a nice beach, tonnes of hotels with swimming pools and slides and you simply cannot move for the amount of bars, restaurants and cafes.
While it may be among the “traditional” holiday destinations, it does seem to have much more to it than ‘England with the sun’ messrs Benidorm and, say, Lloret de Mar*. When you are not watching The Lads putting some Portuguese jobbers to the sword, there is bloody loads of things to do.
Before you do anything, you need to get yourself to Zoomarine. Not only does it have a massive water park but it also has dolphin shows, pantomimes with sea lions, parrots, a recreation of the set from Kevin Costner’s big time flop ‘Waterworld’, and there’s loads of marine biology stuff to learn about. Trust me, it’s mint.
If you want that sweet rush of adrenaline only a water park can deliver then enjoy a day out at Aqualand or Slide n’ Splash. You can enjoy a spot of culture by visiting Albufeira’s 18th century church Igreja Matriz or learn about the town’s history at the Museu Municipal de Arqueologica de Albufeira.
The Algarve is, of course, renowned for its golf courses and you can tee off from some prestigious courses such as Pine Cliffs and Salgados which are within easy reach of Albufeira.
*there’s nothing actually wrong with Benidorm or Lloret de Mar, it’s just I went to the Algarve loads when I was a young’un and really, really like it.