Island Portuguese fans revel in victory, with one more to go

In a nation of immigrants, it is a tribal dance that takes place every two years. Pubs and ethnic halls across Canada fill up during the Euros and World Cup of soccer.

On that count, it was a happy day Wednesday for those of Portuguese ancestry but a not so happy one for those with a Welsh background as Portugal won their semifinal 2-0 and advanced to the Euro 16 championship game Sunday against the winner of today’s Germany-France semifinal.

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The Welsh, at least, have some consolation. Like Canada with hockey, it is one of the few nations to have a favourite sport other than soccer. The Welsh will always have rugby.

But there is one sport that counts above all others among the Portuguese diaspora, the Island chapter of which gathered at their local hall draped in the flag and national team jersey of their ancestral homeland.

“Portugal works so well as team,” said Oscar Furtado, a Victoria-based music promoter.

These ties run deep. Oscar’s cousin, Victoria-produced singing star Nelly Furtado, co-wrote and sang the official theme song, Forca, for the 2004 Euros hosted by Portugal.

“It’s our common ground,” said Christina Santos, who helped arrange the viewing party in the Portuguese hall.

Victor Ferreira, like Furtado and Santos, watched while wearing the Portugal national team jersey. Ferreira’s wife, Natalia, is from Brazil, where he spend a lot of time and which is part of a Portuguese-speaking Commonwealth. So he’s got this soccer thing covered pretty well from both ends.

“Portugal plays an effective, strategic game . . . they conserve their energy to the second half,” said Ferreira, who coaches in the Vancouver Island Wave elite program.

The Portuguese will be back, in force, for another communal viewing of the final on Sunday in their hall. It brings back memories of the 2004 Euro final when Greek and Portuguese fans, with throats and noisemakers in full bellow, kept surging back and forth from their adjacent halls across Elk Lake Drive.

That day did not end well for the Portuguese against the surprising Greeks.

Almost to a person, the Portuguese fans in the hall said they hope to meet the host French instead of the defending World Cup-champion Germans in this year’s Euro final Sunday.

“Germany scares me . . . it has a unified structure that it follows very well,” said Ferreira.

Ferreira experienced that precision first hand and was in attendance at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, when Germany destroyed Portugal 4-0 at the 2014 World Cup.

Ferreira, heavily involved in Island youth soccer, dreams of a day when Canada can play at this level.

“Look at [Euro quarter-finalist] Iceland with its population [of roughly Greater Victoria]. If they can do it, there is no reason why we can’t do it,” said Ferreira.

“We have all kinds of people from all over the world in Canada who love the game and have it in their blood. There is no reason why we can’t be a great soccer nation. But we need better buy in from the [Canadian] public of what we are trying to do to create a path to progress the kids.”

Until then, those jerseys from ethnic homelands will dominate the Canadian soccer landscape.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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