Singapore-backed Portuguese club Algarve promoted in first season
Algarve CF aim to establish stronger connection with Singapore next season
Algarve Clube de Futbol, a Portuguese football club formed by Singapore company AbeoGlobal, have gained promotion after winning their division in their debut season.
The club, who are in the second tier of the Algarve District League, received their league trophy and medals last Saturday, after sealing promotion with two games to spare earlier this month.
And they did it in style, too.
They have scored 101 goals en route to topping the 16-team league, where they hold a seven-point cushion over second-placed UDR Sambrazense.
This title victory means Algarve will play in the first division of the southern district league. Together with two other district leagues, they are effectively the fourth tier of Portuguese football.
But it has not been a walk in the park for Algarve.
"The project has been difficult since day one, and winning the league is vindication of our efforts," Kenneth Lim, one of AbeoGlobal's directors, told The New Paper.
"This is just the first step of getting people to take us seriously, and we want to continue progressing up the leagues."
Fellow director Marco Guimaraes, the club president and AbeoGlobal's man on the ground in Portugal, echoed similar thoughts.
"We had a very difficult first year, logistically and also financially," he told TNP.
"We have been very lucky that we managed to keep things together.
"It was tremendous how the whole team sacrificed to get results (on the pitch).
"It's not an easy league, it's very competitive, and everybody wants to go up.
"We managed to be promoted just eight months after the club started competing.
"To be honest, this is something we never thought would happen, it is something (that happens only) in movies - but winning was tremendous."
Despite the title triumph, Algarve have not managed to tick all the boxes they set for themselves.
"We have also not achieved our initial aim of providing a platform for Singapore players, mainly because no one from the local football fraternity has approached us with a proper proposal," said Lim.
"We are happy to bring on board young and talented players and give them an opportunity to play in the fourth division of the Portuguese league, but we need the local club (or the) national set-up to want to work with us."
Guimaraes, a Portugal-born Singapore permanent resident, insisted that the club will move to establish a stronger Singapore connection next season.
"We'll be more focused, ask more of players in our team, and get scouts in Singapore and maybe Malaysia (to recommend) local players that we would like to include in our team," he said.
"Being champions is fantastic, it's an incredible feeling, and we hope we can achieve the same result next season."