From their 1999 inception in a restaurant, Andorran side FC Lusitans have remained close to their Portuguese roots and are now dreaming of meeting SL Benfica in European competition.
Article top media content
FC Lusitans may not have any big names within their ranks, but their fortunes are nevertheless followed with great intrigue across the Iberian Peninsula.
Currently third in the Andorran top flight and challenging UE Sant Julià and FC Santa Coloma for the title, Lusitans are famed for their links with Portugal, from where most of their squad originate. The team's colours and club crest also bear a striking resemblance to those worn by the UEFA EURO 2004 finalists, the reason for which can be traced back to the club's 1999 foundation.
It all began when a group of acquaintances decided to get together for a friendly encounter. It led to the establishment of a side that twelve years later is challenging for a national championship, having also experienced life in the UEFA Europa League.
"We wanted to organise a game between immigrants of the mainly Portuguese areas of Amarante and Viana do Castelo," club president António da Silva explained to UEFA.com. "
We made a bet that the losing team would buy the winners a meal that evening and it was in the restaurant that someone said: 'Why don't we form a team?' From there the idea of creating our club was born."
In their first full season, Lusitans – which means 'Portuguese' – achieved promotion to the Andorran top tier, where they have remained ever since. "Until four years ago we only had Portuguese players," António da Silva said. "I joined the club's board in 2005 and it was then that we began to discuss the possibility of opening our doors to other nationalities."
The club also changed its crest, opting for one of a cross inside an image of a football – remarkably similar to that adopted by the Portuguese Football Federation. As the years passed, so Lusitans' notoriety began to grow back in Portugal. "The people there know of our existence," António da Silva said. "We have been invited on to television quizzes while the Portuguese television, radio and print media have done special reports on us."
After suffering a UEFA Europa League first qualifying round defeat by FK Rabotnicki back in July, Lusitans recovered to challenge for domestic honours – they are just two points adrift of leaders Sant Julià 14 fixtures in. "The teams fighting for the league are all very equal," added António da Silva. "We are capable of beating, or indeed losing, to any of the sides at the top."
Whatever the outcome, the club's objective remains to qualify for European competition once more. "It's fundamental that we gain entry into one of the continental competitions, above all from an economical point of view," explained the president. "This season we had that opportunity and it was unforgettable for all concerned."
Should they return to compete in the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League, who would António da Silva most like to meet? "It sounds a bit far-fetched but I can dream; to play against Benfica would be out of this world."