50 years of hurt: Celebrating Portuguese victory in Portugal

It’s usually the expats causing trouble

In the seaside town of Carvoeiro, the people are used to British tourists getting a little rowdy. Last night it was the locals making all the noise.

The small town on the Algarve coast erupted after Portugal emerged victorious in the final of the Euros against France.

The mood wasn’t so upbeat all evening, though: the town square was thick with tension, and nervous viewers stood arm in arm as they belted out their national anthem. A sole French couple in a sea of red and green stood for a rendition of Le Marseilleise, and were greeted with applause – as much for their bravery as their singing.

Fast forward half an hour, and locals and Brits alike watched in despair through their fingers as golden boy Cristiano Ronaldo was stretchered off in tears. It looked very much like all hope was lost.

It wasn’t until extra time that the first (and only goal) was scored, and the crowd made up for lost time with their celebrations – horns were blown, fireworks exploded and grown men cried like babies. The final whistle blew ten minutes later, Portugal had won.

“We didn’t expect this,” a choked up old bar owner told me as his colleagues and customers screamed around him: “It’s incredible.”

Across the square, teenagers had torn off their Portugal shirts and were swinging them around in the air. One had sparked a bright green flare, and the smoke rolled over and around the piazza, the people chanting their national anthem within it.

One customer sat alone, baffled, at his table as his friends celebrated in the fray behind him. He looked at me with wild eyes through the slits in his Ronaldo mask: “First. Fucking. Time.”

On the streets, the atmosphere was even more extreme. Motorbikes and quads backfired and wheelied up and down the road; people hung flags out of windows, blowing vuvuzelas and shooting fireworks into the mob below.

By the seafront, traffic had all but stopped as crazed fans danced through the street. Not that the people at a standstill seemed to mind: the car horns and the party-goers making toasts through the sun roofs suggested they were all here for the same reason.

As an impromptu DJ set up shop on the beachfront, we hailed a taxi from a beleaguered looking driver. “It’s chaos,” he said: “I’m happy we won, but it’s over. Why can’t everyone just go home?” 

As if to answer him, yet another car speeds past: horn beeping, passengers screaming and flags of green and red streaming out the window. No-one was going home anytime soon.