A group of friends and table football ‘stars’, or table football, will represent Rionatura / Café do Rio, in Santo Tirso, in the Champions League of the sport, in Rome from November 19th to 21st.
There are six athletes who will represent the team from the Porto district in the Italian capital, in an unprecedented participation for a Portuguese team in the ‘Champions’ of table football.
Mário Silva and Márcio Ferreira are from Paços de Ferreira and suggested the team, as they already play together there, but the idea came from Pedro Oliveira, from Almada.
“The initial idea was mine, I’m interested in international competitions at table football, and also in tournament tables where you play abroad, which are not the same as the Portuguese ones”, tells Lusa the 26-year-old almadense.
covid-19 made it impossible to have qualifying tests “in good time”, and together with the national federation, it was possible to enroll a team that meets a “mixed criterion between friendship and performance”.
So much so that expectations are high: “to make the podium in the Champions League”.
“The expectations are really high, despite being a first participation, because we have in our team not only national players, but also worldwide. Filipe Parreira was several times world junior champion, André Mendes has already won ninth place twice, in the individual of the Worlds. All the other members have already won proofs, even proofs abroad have all made the ‘top 20′”, praises the ‘mentor’ of the idea.
Mário Silva, the ‘captain’, and Márcio Ferreira, from Paços de Ferreira, then join André Mendes and Pedro Oliveira, from Almada, the young Filipe Parreira and Gonçalo Santos, these two from Lisbon, in the Rionatura selection.
For Pedro Oliveira, a competition is interesting not only because of its European prestige, but also because it is played at several tables, among the five considered official by the international federation, which allows players to have greater variety in their choice.
The issue of tables is relevant, since in Portugal, the game is played mainly at a type of table that is not approved, which sets the competitive scene away from the rest of the world, especially in a pandemic scenario without competition at tables authorized by the international federation.
A good participation in ‘Champions’ can give strength to the community, which recently joined the national championships, and perhaps ‘force’ the reflection on the type of tables, even through the implementation of the game in the country.
“It is perhaps Portugal’s greatest advantage over the rest of the world. In every corner of cafes and bars, there is a table. There shouldn’t be a Portuguese man who has never played”, says Pedro Oliveira.
In 2019, the Portuguese Table Football and Table Football Federation estimated the number of federated athletes in four years, in a sport that wants to be recognized as a sport and can grow until it ‘threatens’ integration into the Olympic project.
Nowadays, federative vice-president Ricardo Vieira tells Lusa, that number has “down a little”, but this participation in the Champions League, a corollary of an effort also by the federation, will have “logistic and administrative support” for the athletes .
“We hope it is one more way to gain experience and capacity for future participations. We know that they will be competing with the best athletes in Europe”, he asserts.
The manager notes that after the qualifying phase, “anything can happen”, in a pioneering participation that will already be a basis for next year, a guarantee, as well as helping to “make known the international style of play and how various game tables ”.
“Here in Portugal we are in an intense fight for the presentation of a new gaming table that has the characteristics of our current ones and is closer to the international ones. However, it is a time-consuming process and it has not been easy”, he admits.