"There's nothing more encouraging than being part of this competition," said Clube Atlético Ouriense president João Sousa as Portugal's champions prepare for their European bow.
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Clube Atlético Ouriense ended SU 1° Dezembro's run of 11 straight Portuguese Women's First Division titles last term and now the champions are reaping the rewards – hosting UEFA Women's Champions League qualifying round Group 4, which features Thursday's opponents FC Zürich as well as KÍ Klaksvík and Ekonomist.
Atlético Ouriense chairman João Sousa described their title triumph in April as a "historic moment" that would be "difficult to forget" but the prospect of watching his team in Europe's top women's club competition is one he is equally relishing. The fact they have achieved so much when not fully professional is an extra source of pride for Sousa.
"Some parents even drive the players to matches," said Sousa. "We will try to get more support from sponsors but everything will practically remain the same, even with the reality of participating in the UEFA Women's Champions League. There's nothing more encouraging than being part of a competition like this."
Atlético Ouriense were formed in Ourem (central Portugal) in 1947 and though they already had a women's team when Sousa arrived, their ascent has been marked in the past two seasons. "When I came in, there was already a women's side but they had still to win an official game," explained the 47-year-old chairman. "My previous experience at Santarém's regional football association was invaluable as I used to deal with futsal and women's football.
"I knew everything about football in the region. To begin with, there were some doubts about our work, but in two years we've managed to win the second division and then land the national title."
Winning a domestic crown even came as a surprise to coach Mauro Moderno. "I must be honest, I didn't expect to become Portuguese champions by this stage," said the 23-year-old, who has a sports degree and also coaches at the institute from which he graduated – Escola Superior de Desporto de Rio Maior. "I had little knowledge of women's football so it was a fantastic surprise to win the national league."
Whether or not Atlético Ouriense's form can be translated onto the European scene will be revealed in Group 4 between 8 and 13 August – but Zürich should know they will not face an easy ride in Thursday's opener.