A great, great love (which turns off the microphone on Sunday)

António Pratas was born in Esmoriz, in the municipality of Ovar, 72 years ago. The vagaries of life, and especially a marriage for life, led him to 24 years in Tondela.

I never wanted anything else.

Almost fifty years later, he is the living memory of the adventures and misadventures of the local team. He joined the club just a year after arriving in the village and somehow he never left. Or at least, Tondela never left him again.

“There are details that go into the story. At the time, in 1975, I had a very small Mini, it was my car at the time. Tondela didn’t have a bus or anything like that. So during a trip where we were going to play at Oliveira do Bairro, very close to Mealhada, seven players remained on the ground. I took the seven players inside the Mini, with me eight, to Oliveira do Hospital. We still remember that story today, because eight people inside a Mini is quite something.

He was president, vice president, director and for almost two decades he became the voice that introduces Tondela games to all fans. Through Emissora das Beiras, he accompanies the team everywhere. Since Tondela moved up to the League, they haven’t missed a single game.

“It’s addictive. From Minho to the Algarve, from the Azores to Madeira, I travel all over the country in search of the Tondela”, he confides from the top of the septuagenarian youth.

“This year, on the trip to the Azores to play in Santa Clara, I left Tondela at five in the morning, I went straight to Lisbon by car, I arrived at eight in the morning, I took the plane at ten o’clock, I arrived in Ponta Delgada at noon, I went to lunch, I played the game, I returned to the airport to return to Lisbon and at midnight I was in Tondela. All this alone.

He is able to drive a whole day to bring the team’s match report to Beira Alta. A day on the road, for an hour and a half of pure pleasure.

“For example, in Portimão, matches are always at 3:30 p.m. So we left at 7:30, and I say we because in the meantime I have a partner who is Bruno Maneira, who does the commentary. So we leave Tondela at 7:30 a.m., we stop at the Santarém service area for breakfast, at noon we are in the Algarve and we are going to have lunch. We usually go to Frango da Guia. We head to the Portimonense stadium and report. At the end of the match we go upstairs, we stop at Aljustrel for dinner, we have dinner and at midnight we are at home.

On Sunday, at the age of 72, he will be in the press box doing what he loves most: reporting on the club games he has fallen in love with. It’s practically a whole life dedicated to Tondela.

in conversation with the more soccer He says he came to Tondela in 1974 and got a job as a finance officer. A year later, he joined the club.

“At that time, Tondela was in second place in Division I in the district, which gave him access to Division III. I was secretary of the council, Mr. António Coimbra, uncle of the current president Gilberto Coimbra, abdicated the position of president and appointed me to replace him. So I assumed the presidency in the 76-77 season, which was Tondela’s first in Division III. I was 25.”

They were other times in the club’s history, then a simple and familiar emblem of a small village in Beira. António Pratas says the management was made up of seven people, one of whom is costume designer Rolando Cruz, who still works in Tondela, and there was no money for anything.

“On the trips we had, some too far, I remember for example Alcains, we would go on Saturday mornings to fundraisers around town to get money to help pay for the trips. It was the first year in the national divisions and it was a year of great sacrifice.

It was the 1970s, when he still had the shield and the club was still counting the pennies. António Pratas had a friend who owned a business that ran between Tondela and Caramulo, and sometimes lent him a bus to transport the team.

“But he couldn’t always take a bus: sometimes he lent us his personal car, a five-seater Mercedes. It was already a help. These were moments of great difficulty, but we missed them, because they make the history of Tondela.

They also left many episodes to tell and celebrate in the life of the club.

“We went to play at Alcains, near Castelo Branco. This time we had money to sleep in Fundão. We arrived in Fundão at eight o’clock in the evening, in cars ordered from friends and others. The coach went to a cafe to buy some tobacco and at the counter someone pointed a razor at him. Then he realized he was a coach and let him through. So that’s when we discovered that this area of ​​Fundão where we were going to sleep was not very busy,” he says.

“At that time, Tondela was playing in Division III, Series C, and one of the opponents was Recreio de Águeda, who later became Division I. Recreio de Águeda came on the last day to Tondela to play to be champion . The stadium, which is now João Cardoso, at the time was called Campo do Pereiro, was invaded by Águeda. It was the biggest flood I can remember. Without exaggeration, four or five thousand people came to Tondela, wanting to see the game. From morning to night, Tondela was taken care of by people from Águeda, there were people knocking on my door asking for a ticket. In the end we drew 1-1, Tondela didn’t fall and Recreio de Águeda was champion.

He left the presidency because he was psychologically exhausted, but returned in 1982 as vice-president in two different directions. In 1998, following a serious crisis that threw the club into the District II Division, he was asked to chair the General Assembly Board.

“I left after a year. Then came Gilberto Coimbra, who ran the club as a business and did a great job, crowned in 2015 with promotion to the League.

From neighborhoods to the League in ten years, an incredible journey that changed Tondela forever. Today it’s a completely different club, which for seven seasons has become a regular among the biggest in Portuguese football.

António Pratas experienced all this too: but behind a microphone.

“I started at Emissora das Beiras, which is a radio based in Caramulo. I started when Tondela was in Division III and did that for many years. But then, when Tondela moved up to League II, the radio went into crisis, stopped doing sports and I was contacted by Rádio Lafões, from São Pedro do Sul, to do sports,” he reveals. he.

“I stayed there for five years and in 2015, when Tondela moved to the League, Emissora das Beiras asked me if I wanted to come back. All this for the love of the jersey, be careful, I didn’t pay anything for these jobs.”

What is curious in all this is that António Pratas not only does not earn money with his work, but that he also has to find money himself for trips and meals.

“Notice this: I made Tondela’s first year in the League with the expenses borne by the radio and at the end they told me that it was impossible for them to continue to bear these expenses. And at that time, for the love of the club and the radio, I offered a deal: I would bear all the expenses of the sports team and they would give me space to continue reporting on Tondela matches,” he says.

“They said to me: ‘You can have all the antennas you want, but we, on the radio, we don’t give a penny for that’. And me, yes sir. I gathered in finance as a sole proprietorship, approached Tondela businesses and raised the money needed to support the expenses.

A gas station provided fuel for trips, a car dealer lent a car, and for another six years António Pratas traveled the country reporting on Tondela’s goals.

He admits that at 72, there are nights when the body asks for rest, but he assures that he has never complained. For a very simple reason: it is not possible.

“I have a woman at home who says to me, ‘Don’t complain, don’t complain that no one is pointing a gun at your head. And that’s true. Sometimes I’m tired, it takes several hours to travel, but I can’t complain that my wife won’t let me. Obviously it would be better if I could go to Madeira two days earlier, stay in a hotel, have lunch and dinner, but we don’t have the budget for that.

This Sunday, at 5:15 p.m., when Tondela takes to the pitch at Jamor to experience the most glorious afternoon in its long history, António Pratas will be there, in the press box, to tell it all. He and Bruno Maneira, who became a companion in these races for the love of the club.

You will remember the last almost fifty years, all the adventures you have had, all the goals Tondela has shouted and you will probably be happy.

At the end of the game, the microphone will be turned off. For the last time.

“Sunday I will play my last game. Honestly, that’s enough. I think we have to give way to the youth. I’ve been everywhere. Where Tondela was, we were.

The stand that provided the car for the trips has already warned that the car will have to be returned on Monday and that there will be no more in the future, António Pratas believes it is time to stop.

“Be careful, maybe I will tell you and in the future another company will appear to lend a car, a little thing in my head and it will be another year. But I don’t agree. I think it’s time now. I’ve already told my colleague: next week we’re going to have dinner just the two of us with champagne. It’s over, we’re not broke and we’re having fun. We made a lot of friends, which is the most important.

So Sunday, that’s it, you’re probably going to turn off the mic for the last time. At the end of a historic match for Tondela, on a historic stage of Portuguese football.

“Accompanying a Beira team is different, the Beira spirit is different. With wins, with losses, with good times, with bad times, I’ve never had a problem,” he said.

“Sunday when I say the show is over, I’ll probably have a tear. It was many years, many years.

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