- Mário Rocha
Football history was here: Académico Football Club and Lima Stadium in Porto
The old Lima stadium was located next to present-day Marquês de Pombal square close to Porto city centre. It belonged to Académico Football Club and was used for several purposes.
Nowadays, the only evidence of this past is a phrase painted on a wall: “Football history was here”.
The name “Lima” comes from the successful businessman João António Lima. After several business deals in Brazil, João António Lima, together with his Brazilian wife Luzia Bruce, decided to return to Portugal to settle in a mansion on Costa Cabral Street, which included a farm. Years later, the businessman’s wife, Luzia Bruce, inherits a quite remarkable fortune after João António Lima death in 1891. The Brazilian widow dies in 1914 and donates a large part of her legacy to Porto’s Misericórdia (Institution focused on Charity and social assistance, philanthropic and public utility) including Lima estate. In turn, this Institution decides to rent the land to Académico FC in 1923.
Currently an empty lot, the Lima stadium was a leading sports arena in Portugal. It was inaugurated in 1924 after some complications with the soil. Besides the football field, an athletics and motor racing track was equally built and, in 1937, a lawn was laid.
Académico FC was founded in 1911 by 14-year-old student José Neves Eugénio and his friends. Initially, they named the club as “Students group” but it stood only for a short time, as in 1914 it already had its current name. It should be noted that José Neves Eugénio, at an advanced age, was awarded a Cruz de Guerra (War cross) for his performance as captain of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps in the First World War.
In effect, since its foundation, Académico FC is an eclectic sports institution. It was one of the first Portuguese sports clubs to have a grass field and roller hockey team, eleven and seven men handball team, volleyball team, basketball team, cycling, sports athletics (which was the term used when referring to athletics), tennis, water polo (practiced on the river beaches of the Douro and Leça rivers), swimming, cricket, badminton, motoring, and camping. With the stadium construction, a unique sports complex was built in the country as well as in the Iberian Peninsula. In addition to the football field and athletics, cycling, and motor racing tracks, there were two tennis courts, a skating and roller hockey rink, and a basketball court.
Given the club's long history, some athletes need to be highlighted. Manuel Fonseca e Castro, the first international footballer of a club located in the city of Porto; José Prata de Lima, the first Porto’s Olympic athlete to have participated in the 1928 Olympic Games in Athletics; Ribeiro da Silva, “o Português voador” (the flying Portuguese), winner of two Portugal bicycle races in 1955 and 1957.
In the 1940s, Académico FC loaned his stadium to FC Porto until its newly Antas stadium was inaugurated in 1952. The “dragões” (dragons – FC Porto player’s nickname) played in the Constituição football field located on Constituição Street. These, when playing at home with SL Benfica or Sporting CP, borrowed the stadium from Académico FC or Sport Progresso (Amial football field). After a disagreement with the latter, FC Porto decided for Lima’s even though it was more expensive. Several games were played at this stadium. Among them the famous 1947 FC Porto - Sporting CP match where, alongside with the football game, it was the setting for the “Leão de Estrela” film. In the following year, FC Porto - Arsenal FC. This English team was considered the best in the world at the time. The “dragões” won and received what is globally known as the biggest trophy in the world. It is currently on display at the FC Porto museum.
At the beginning of the 60s, Académico FC entered an economic crisis that culminated with the Lima demolition and the consequent elimination of football, motorsport, and athletics sports. Nevertheless, President Mário Navega decided to build two sports arenas in the 60s, which remain active today.
It is important to note that, since the beginning of its history, Académico FC has always remained true to its identity. Amateurism and eclecticism are the pillars of this Porto sports club.
Although there were news that reported the risk of the club's disappearance due to financial difficulties, in 2019 an investment proposal came from the Spanish company SUPERA 24 FITNESS to make the surrounding area a new high-end sports complex reminiscent of the one that once existed in the first half of the XX century. It should be noted that Porto City Council granted land that was its property to the Académico FC to enable the investment.
As a result, it is expected that this Porto sports club will become a new city attraction point for sports and social life.