On the 116th anniversary of Boavista FC, a great club founded in 1903 by Portuguese textile workers and two English brothers, Harry and Dick Lowe, Aaron Barton for Próxima Jornada revisits and celebrates the Oporto club’s greatest achievement, winning the Primeira Liga in the 2000-01 season.
Rewind the clocks to the end of the 2000-01 season, Real Madrid are crowned champions of Spain, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United are yet again the champions of England, AS Roma have just won their third Scudetto in Italy. In Portugal however, something monumental has happened, the winners of the Primeira Liga? Boavista FC.
It was in this year that Boavista became only the second team outside of Os Três Grandes (The Big Three), to be crowned Primeira Liga champions, the other being Belenenses in the 1945-46 season. So, how did Jaime Pachecho’s men pull off the impossible?
As the ‘chequered ones’ entered the 90s, they began to build up a head of steam but always seemed to fall short of matching or eclipsing their highest league finish of 2nd place, achieved in the 1975-76 season. From the 1990-91 season stretching to the 1995-96 season, they managed to finish 3rd once and 4th on four different occasions, with the usual suspects FC Porto, SL Benfica and Sporting CP predominantly occupying the top 3 places. Then, after two wayward campaigns in 96-97 and 97-98 which saw the Oporto side finish 7th and 6th respectively, something changed. Boavista, going into the 98-99 season hired relatively inexperienced Portuguese coach and former player, Jaime Pacheco as the man to take the club forward.
In his first season, he achieved what Boavista hadn’t managed to do since 1975-76 and finish in 2nd place. The wheels were truly set in motion and it began to feel like it was only a matter of time until they would reach the pinnacle of Portuguese domestic football, by lifting the Primeira Liga title. In the end, there were only 8 points that separated Boavista and the league winners, their Oporto rivals FC Porto. Boavista had matched the Dragon’s stride for stride throughout the campaign, with both sides only losing 3 games. However, it was Boavista’s penchant for a draw that saw them come up short, drawing 11 of their games in comparison to Porto’s 7 draws.
A solid yet unspectacular second season under Pachecho saw Boavista finish 4th yet again, the dreams of becoming champions of Portugal extinguished for yet another year What was to happen in the following season, the 2000-01 campaign, will forever remain etched in the minds and hearts of the supporters of Os Axadrezados.
Pacheco, who placed great emphasis upon hard-work and grit, assembled a side that defended well as a unit. Ricardo, who would later go on to be remembered for his gloveless antics during the Portugal-England match in Euro 2004, held the fort between the sticks. Conceding just 22 goals all season, Boavista under Pachecho’s guidance were proving to be a tough nut to crack for the rest of the league. A staple result for the Oporto side during this campaign was the ‘1-0’, a result and scoreline that epitomised this hard-working Boavista side, going 1-0 up and then remaining tactically, physically and emotionally discliplined enough to see the result out was a common occurence. They also shared goals all over the pitch, removing the need for reliance on one sole striker, in fact not one Boavista player appeared in the Top 10 goalscorers for the Primeira Liga that season, something unheard of for a title-winning side.
Just like in the 1998/99 season 2 years earlier however, Boavista drew a high percentage of their games and with FC Porto breathing down their necks, it seemed likely they would once again slip up to their nearest rivals and succumb to second place, but as the season progressed, Boavista simply refused to fall away, winning or drawing, game after game. It was Boavista’s refusal to be beaten in matches that was the catalyst behind them being crowned champions, losing just 3 games throughout the entire campaign, compared to FC Porto’s 6 defeats. This reluctance to be beaten meant that the high amount of draws and the fact they won 1 less game than FC Porto, were not deciding factors. A pivotal match in the title race was the showdown between the two in the Oporto derby, a match which Boavista won, thus allowing them to take charge at the top of the table.
It was Jornada 33 that clinched the title, the penultimate game of the season. Boavista hosted Aves and emphatically defeated them 3-0, ensuring the gap between themselves and FC Porto was too big to bridge and resulting in Boavista being crowned the champions of the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Jaime Pachecho’s initial reaction to his sides historic achievement? “We won because we were the best” Pachecho’s comments rang with almost charming simplicity. He was right, the best performing, most well-organised, hardest to beat team had won and history was made.
This achievement remains Boavista’s sole league title and to this day, they remain just one of 5 teams to have won the Primeira Liga and 1 of 4 teams to have won the Primeira Liga in the 21st century.
A wonderful club with a rich history, happy anniversary Boavista FC, here’s to many more.
Aaron Barton – Próxima Jornada
@ProximaJornada1 on Twitter