Faces of Football: Portugal - a letter to the national team

Diogo Lopes for AC Momento

Dear Portuguese national team, 

This is the one trophy missing from our trophy cabinet. It’s the one trophy that every single person in Portugal wants. And while it may seem unattainable, the Euro 2016 crown did too until Eder scored that wonderful goal. 

I can understand if you feel added weight on your shoulders this winter. You have been labelled as a ‘Golden Generation’ and you are captained by Portugal’s greatest ever player. But while there is extra pressure, pressure isn’t new for you. You’ve dealt with pressure your whole lives and you’ve dealt with it extremely well. 

That’s why you’re here, in the Portugal FIFA World Cup squad, about to represent your country on the biggest stage of all. You have all been blessed with incredible talent and have the intangible will to win needed to perform at the highest level too. 

What’s truly special about this current generation is how you are able to bring the nation together. Everyone from your parents, your old neighbourhood friends, and even people who don’t really like football, will be cheering you on and willing you on to victory in Qatar this winter. And the fact that you can bring so many different Portuguese people together during a tournament shrouded in controversy over Qatari human rights abuses and treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community, that is so, so important. 

For someone who grew up in a family of Portuguese emigrants in France like me, the national team is typified by that goal in Paris. I clearly remember celebrating Eder’s goal, clinging to my brothers in a square full of French people, with all eyes on us. 

That is why this unity of Portuguese people is at the same time tangible and difficult to grasp because it is not geographically limited. The diaspora goes far beyond our small rectangular country, and it also doesn’t depend on blood, language, or passport.  

As a poet once noted, Portugal is not just three syllables as three syllables fail to capture the multitude of the wonderful Portuguese people. 

Whatever Portugal is, I know that football helps me feel it. Before you think about making history, think about that.