The football team who were promoted after no one wanted to play them

27-01-2021 03:30 PM

Ammon News - “A few years ago I read about an ill-disciplined team that everybody else in the league refused to play, thus giving them a run of walkover victories. As a result they were promoted and no longer a problem for that division. Any idea who this was?” asks Chris Davis.

The anti-heroes of this stranger-than-fiction story are Canelas 2010, who escaped the Portuguese fourth tier with the help of umpteen forfeits during the 2016-17 season. Canelas won six of their first seven games in their regional league, Porto Divisão de Elite Série 1. Then, after a series of secret meetings, 12 of the other 13 teams said they would no longer play them. “They were reported for intimidating opponents,” writes Nicholas Reid. “Some players in the team were apparently members of an FC Porto ultras group.”

Not just members. The captain, Fernando Madureira, was leader of the Super Dragons – reportedly the most feared of the Porto ultras.

A YouTube video of Canelas’s zealous approach started to do the rounds, and the story even made the New York Times. The exception to the boycott was CD Candal, who were brave enough not only to play Canelas but beat them 2-0. They further confounded expectations by being the only team to have a player sent off in the game.

That was Canelas’s only regular-season defeat. Sixteen of their 24 wins were by walkover, and they finished 25 points ahead of second-placed Rio Tinto. Both went into a six-team mini-league to decide promotion to the third-tier national league.

With promotion at stake, the other teams decided to play Canelas. (The last two games of their regular season had also taken place.) In the third game, against Rio Tinto, Marco Gonçalves was sent off in the second minute for chinning an opponent off the ball and then arrested for breaking the referee’s nose by kneeing him in the face.

Gonçalves took Arsène Wenger’s old excuse to a new level by saying he couldn’t remember the incident. He was sacked by Canelas and banned from football for four and a half years. The official breakdown of the ban was “four years for assaulting a referee, two months for insults and threats, and three months for assaulting an opposition player”. He later received an 11-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

The match was abandoned, with Rio Tinto given a 3-0 win. They boycotted the return game six weeks later, a decision that ultimately meant Canelas were promoted ahead of them. That, as far as we’re aware, was the last of the walkovers. Canelas only lasted a season in the third tier before being relegated, but they were promoted again in the 2018-19 season and are currently in the third tier, top of Campeonato de Portugal Série D.


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