The unprecedented relegation of Académica da 2.ª Liga, confirmed this Sunday, is something that “could not happen”, says Lusa Diogo Valente, a former “hero” of “Briosa”, who lived in Coimbra “the highest moment of the career”.
“It’s sad to see a club of this size, with these conditions, in a city like Coimbra… it’s sad. It’s strange, it’s strange. […] It couldn’t happen to a club like Académica,” he said in an interview with Lusa.
Now at Salgueiros, another ‘giant’ who dropped out of the professional leagues, to which he had been looking to return for years, the 37-year-old winger is struggling to find explanations for what happened to Briosa, whose descent was confirmed today. with a draw against Penafiel.
“The city and the people have moved away a lot. It’s true that the students have stopped following, of course, they have gone through difficult times financially, but that’s not a justification to come to this,” he believes.
Four goals in 36 games impressed Coimbra and, after the inaugural 2010/11 season, he was left behind for another year, which would go down in history for the club, when they ended up winning the Portuguese Cup against Sporting.
In the 64th minute of this match, at Jamor, Diogo Valente crosses, from the left, to find the head of Marinho, author of the only goal of the match.
“It’s a remarkable moment. It was the greatest moment of my career, winning a Cup for Académica, against a great Portuguese footballer, and also because of the involvement there was in this stadium, the number of people in Jamor. Then, when he arrived in Coimbra, filled the streets with people,” the winger recalled.
There, the team commented among themselves: “Where are these people in other times?”. This is because “in festive times they are, but when the club needs them most…”.
This “big club atmosphere” was felt after winning the “queen” competition of Portuguese football, but “why don’t they support it day by day?”
“Académica could be stronger if people went to the stadium and supported it,” he said.
The former Boavista, FC Porto, Sporting de Braga and Leixões player, among other clubs, ended up having two spells at Briosa over the years, and was close to a round number: there were 99 games , with nine goals scored, in 2010/11, 2011/12 then 2013/14.
“[Quando fui para a Académica] I found a club that still marked me a lot. At the end of this season, my desire was to continue one more year precisely because of the affection and the atmosphere of this club. People receive very well, there is a very good atmosphere. […] We had this historic moment, in which the city came together, with great hope and great conviction,” he said.
This year, and this feat, ends up appearing in every “curve” of the conversation, because it was the last great “cry” of one of the historic Portuguese footballers, but also because he felt “that the city was with the club”.
The fall is ‘frightening’, because we don’t know “what will happen”. A club like that to fall into a reality of Ligue 3, will it go up? I do not know. These are times of great uncertainty and I think they are scary,” he said.
La Liga 3 and the Portuguese Championship are “full” of stories that seek to return to the fore, and Diogo Valente has spent the last years in two of them: at Sporting de Espinho, between 2019 and 2021 , and this season in Salgueiros.
“These clubs have not fallen into the clutches of these people and the people they are. Académica no longer has this neighborhood. That’s what scares me the most. In these clubs, really, you live a lot [o emblema]and it’s this neighborhood, these people, this love of the club that hasn’t let these clubs down,” he says.
Despite Mancha Negra, a “club that supports the club”, the absence of a mass linked to the team as in Espinho and in the “nomadism” of Salgueiros, “orphan” of the Engenheiro Vidal Pinheiro stadium, can make reunions with the difficult club.
“Académica and the city have to come together again, people have to believe in the club again. Only then can they bring it back to the level of recent years,” he said.
Moreover, Diogo Valente may also be on his way to Liga 3, but in the opposite direction: Salgueiros, with a team that combines youth and “stars” with the experience of the I Liga, plays in the promotion phase of the Portuguese Championship.
The historic Académica, national vice-champion in 1966/67, in the best of their 64 I Liga appearances, fell today, for the first time in their history, in the third division of Portuguese football.
The “students” will play La Liga 3 in 2022/23, after 88 consecutive seasons, since 1934/35, between the first and second divisions of Portuguese football, in a journey that until today counted seven relegations and 24 appearances in secondary division. .
This is the eighth decline in Academica history, after seven from first to second, in 1947/48, 1971/72, 1978/79, 1980/81, 1987/88, 1998/99 and 2015 /16.
The historic victory of the 2011/12 edition of the Portuguese Cup, in the Jamor final, repeated the triumph of the inaugural edition (4-3 at Benfica, in 1938/39), and gave access to a participation in the group stage of the Europa League in 2012/13, and an equally historic victory in Coimbra, against Atlético de Madrid (2-0).