Kicking off EBUC 2019 in style, Portugal’s mixed team won 13-6 against Czech Republic in the show-game. This was their first game in front of a home crowd, with many members of friends, family, club teams and the Portuguese public watching on the beach or via livestream. All eyes were on them, and they gave a performance to be proud of. After some back and forth at the beginning of the game, the Portuguese raised the bar at 5-4 and pushed ahead of the Czechs. Tight defence, with some particularly great blocks from Lacroix and Patrão, made it impossible for the Czechs to forge a comeback.
After the game, I have the opportunity to speak to the team’s captains, Kendall Ferreira and David Costa De Lemos. They give me insight into how it feels playing for a home crowd in the opening game after months of preparation. Ferreira tells me, ‘it’s a nice feeling, we’ve both played a couple of Worlds [tournaments] with Portugal and so we’re accustomed to playing in France, London, Dubai… but it’s a little weird to be playing on the place that you train.’ Lemos adds, ‘I was nervous about there being a lot of people but was excited to provide entertainment’.
In preparation for the European Championships, the team warmed up at tournaments Sabe-A-Mixta (Valencia) and MOW (Lisbon), as well as training collectively on a monthly basis and following a training programme in their own time. Ferreira explains communication was vital in being able to motivate each other, ‘to push each other forward’ in the lead up to EBUC. She explains the team’s average age is lower than it has been in the past and some of their players are relatively new to beach Ultimate, having previously played on grass. However, she thinks the team has now come into their game.
One of the tournament aims is to give back to the local community. The main initiative put in place to achieve this is Currier Island’s teaching field, where daily sessions are held to teach local children how to play Ultimate. Those who attend will receive an old disc to take home with them so they can continue to play at home. Considering this initiative, I ask the captains how they think the Championships will affect Portugal’s wider Ultimate scene. They hope the tournament’s media coverage helps more people discover Ultimate and have a tournament to aim for in the future. Furthermore, they would like their performance throughout the tournament to give younger players role models to look up to.
It will be exciting to see how the team fairs throughout the tournament. They are due to play Belgium tomorrow morning before the mixed division is separated into two pools of six teams, for the next stage of play. Like all of their Portuguese fans, I’ll be looking out to see how they do in the rest of the tournament.