We’re going completely out of topic today.
Back in 1900 there was a sort of football field in Belém, southwest Lisbon, in a place known at the time as “Terras do Desembargador”. When a ball was lost to outside the field the chances were that you would probably never recover it due to the open spaces. Moreover, the Portuguese Army used it as an exercise field as well so it would be often complety destroyed.
One day, in 1904, a group of friends, headed by the very great Cosme Damião, decided to create a football club to play regularly there. In a pharmacy called “Laboratório Franco” in Rua de Belém (same street as “Pastéis de Belém), they decided to call it “Sport Lisboa” and to wear red and white as main colors as well as an eagle for the symbol.
The first games? 4 victories, against Clube Internacional de Futebol (2 times), Estephania and Campo de Ourique.
Despite the good results (Cosme Damião, for instance, was one of the first great Portuguese football players), the club faced very poor operating conditions and that can explain why a set of players left Benfica in 1907 to join the more prosperous newborn Sporting in Campo Grande, in the other side of town.
In 1908 Sport Lisboa e Benfica was formed, as Sport Lisboa acquired Grupo Sport Benfica and moved from Belém to Benfica. Despite the merger, Grupo Sport Benfica maintained the ownership of the football field known as “Campo da Feiteira”. A bicycle wheel was added to the emblem of Sport Lisboa to represent cycling, the most important sport of Grupo Sport Benfica.
For Sport Lisboa e Benfica finding a playing field was always a struggle, due, more than anything, to the high rents on the club’s rented fields. Following the merger, the football club moved to “Campo da Feiteira” (1907) at “Quinta da Feiteira”, Estrada de Benfica, and then to “Campo de Sete Rios” (1913), “Campo de Benfica” (1917), “Estádio das Amoreiras” (1925-1940) and in 1941 to “Estádio do Campo Grande”, former Sporting Clube de Portugal playing field (Sporting had just moved to “Estádio do Lumiar”).
From these, only “Estádio das Amoreiras” belonged to the club but it was demolished to give way to a freeway connecting Lisboa to Jamor. After the expropriation, the club dealt with government officials for a piece of land between Carnide and Benfica. At the time the feeling was that, in the words of Duarte Pacheco himself, “Benfica must return to Benfica”.
And there was born the “Estádio da Luz”, also known, in the beginning, as “Estádio de Carnide”.
This is when things get really interesting. For the construction of the new stadium, the associates coped with an increased fee for supporting the building costs, offered very large donations and some (not very few) went as far as to work themselves on the building yard on holidays or weekends. And did it pay dividends.
The first match in “Estádio da Luz” was a loss 1-3 against FC Porto but overall Benfica won 854 out of the 1092 home games played there, winning 23 national championships, 17 Portuguese cups and 2 European Champions League cups (to go along with the 5 finals played).
Next year (2014) the new “Estádio da Luz” will host the European Champions League final game. I hope we continue on writting history today against Chelsea FC just to get things going in advance.