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Portugal's City of Football: Foundations for a national success story

We speak to Cláudia Poças, director of the Portuguese Football Federation’s Cidade do Futebol, home to six trophy-winning national teams in less than a decade.

Lisbon's Cidade do Futebol is a community hub as well as an elite training centre
Lisbon's Cidade do Futebol is a community hub as well as an elite training centre FPF

Since their first EURO triumph in 2016, Portuguese national teams have won six other trophies across multiple age groups and formats – more titles than in the previous 100 years of the nation's rich football heritage.

If you're looking for the biggest single reason behind such an unprecedented period of success, then start at the impressive Cidade do Futebol – City of Football – which lies in the shadows of the Estádio Nacional on the outskirts of Lisbon.

"It’s not just about infrastructure. It's about a feeling."

Cláudia Poças, director of the City of Football

Opened for business on the eve of EURO 2016, the City of Football has provided a common home for the sporting and administrative mission of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF). As befits the name, the complex has its own TV channel, university and hotel in addition to technical facilities. A newly constructed futsal hall will be inaugurated before the end of the year.

"It's no coincidence that since we've been [at the City of Football], we've won more trophies than we did in over a century," says former Portugal striker Pedro Pauleta, now a director at the FPF.

Home-built success

March 2016 Cidade do Futebol officially opens in Lisbon July 2016 Portugal's first-ever EURO triumph 2016 European Under-17 Championship winners 2018 Futsal EURO title 2018 European Under-19 Championship winners 2019 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup winners 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup winners 2022 Second successive Futsal EURO title 2022 First Futsal Finalissima winners 2023 European Under-19 Futsal Championship winners

Spirit of togetherness

For Cláudia Poças, director of the City of Football, the secret to the complex's success lies not just in offering a centre of football excellence but also in building a spirit of togetherness that embraces players, staff, schools, businesses and communities.

"It's not just about infrastructure," says Poças, "It's about a feeling."

During the COVID pandemic, the hotel acted as a hospital when the health ministry was running out beds, while two years ago it provided a home to local families who had been displaced by flooding.

Each year, the complex welcomes more than 200 schools so children can visit the facilities and, most importantly, learn about good nutrition and the values of fair play and respect. The university offers more than 40 courses for sports professionals covering marketing, leadership, women's leadership and sustainability. "It's another way to pass on our expertise to clubs, associations, players and former players," observes Poças.

EURO 2024: Game changer, story maker

Development of Portugal's City of Football was funded by UEFA's HatTrick programme which distributes an average 66% of each men's EURO's net revenue to European associations for investment in their national game. Its success is a perfect example of how infrastructure funding can have a larger knock-on effect beyond the bricks and mortar.

Read more stories that show the EURO’s power to change lives and communities for the better, on an off the pitch.

Working as a family

Building a community, of course, begins at home with national team players and FPF staff. The game-changing role of the City of Football was clear to former Portugal forward João Pinto as soon as the EURO 2016 squad returned to Lisbon with the Henri Delaunay Cup.

"When we got here and we felt that everybody, all the staff, were so enthusiastic, we had that feeling of 'we're home'," says Pinto, an FPF director since 2011. "We've won something abroad, but we're sharing this with them."

João Pinto (centre) is now a director at the Portuguese Football Federation
João Pinto (centre) is now a director at the Portuguese Football FederationFPF

Bringing all the federation's operations and teams under one roof has provided an invaluable sense of unity and refreshed identity.

"Before the City of Football, our national team was travelling around Portugal without any base, so our logistical and technical centres were in different locations and our structure was completely split," says Poças. "Now, after eight years, we can really say we're working as a family."

"One day we have the Under-15s, the next day it's Cristiano Ronaldo. This kind of interaction is amazing."

Cláudia Poças, director of the City of Football

That togetherness benefits the players too. "We have 28 national teams, and all of them are based here and train here," explains Poças. "One day we have the Under-15s, the next day it's Cristiano Ronaldo. This kind of interaction is amazing. The young girls and boys can see where they can be in a few years."

The sense of belonging to one big family contributes to the smooth transition into Portugal's senior teams for many young players – such as Benfica pair João Neves and António Silva – with coaches able to work closely together and with players across age groups.

Youth teams  use the same facilities as the senior teams at the City of Football
Youth teams use the same facilities as the senior teams at the City of FootballFPF

Economically sustainable

The City of Football also contributes to the local economy. Through the hosting of events and local partnerships, the FPF has turned the City of Football into an economically sustainable complex, leveraging the power of football to continue to invest in facilities, including the new futsal hall.

"Sport is our main focus, but the building was also constructed as a business building," explains Poças. "It costs a lot to keep the pitches in the best condition, to have such infrastructure, so we rent the space for corporate events. The futsal hall will be ready to host events, even concerts."

Like the rest of the City of Football, the futsal hall will represent not just football in Portugal but also the entire country. "Eighty per cent of the furniture and fittings is from Portuguese companies. There's a lot of green and red," says Poças. "We want to give our players a sense of home, that they are representing something more than football."

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