CF Canelas 2010: The Football Team That Scared Off the Opposition
The Team No One Wants to Play: The Story of CF Canelas 2010
Portuguese team CF Canelas 2010 are known for their aggressive tactics and violent players - but how did this modern football club scare off all opposition?
Tim Ellis tells the full story of a team that no one wanted to play against!!
In 1966, the late Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered the famous words: “They think it’s all over. It is now,” to a global audience of about 400 million at Wembley when England defeated West Germany 4-2.
As English fans raised a toast or two to their heroes, that same year an amateur football club was quietly formed in the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia, where port wine originated in the 17th century.
Canelas Gaia Futebol Clube cannot claim to have the same longevity as the cellars near the Douro River, but it was restructured 44 years later under a new name Canelas 2010.
This was the beginning of a tumultuous decade of promotion, controversy and a belated attempt at institutional change from within.
Join us as we take a look at the infamous football team that scared off the opposition!
The Soccer Team That No One Wants to Play
In the words of their former captain and President, Fernando Madureira, Canelas 2010 became “the only amateur club in Portugal, maybe in the world, with a global reputation.” That much is true.
In February 2013, a Facebook message on the official page of this Gaiense team reminded aspiring footballers of the values that should always be present within the club.
They were required to buy into the concept of the club’s fair play and reminded that “referees are people who get it right and who get it wrong. Treat them with respect”.
It was a laughable moral code to read considering the dressing room environment and the personnel that pursued their opponents with more violence than vigour.
The gap between the on-brand message and what happened on and off the pitch was wider than the Iberian Peninsula. Canelas were mentality monsters in all the wrong places.
Norman “Bites Yer Legs” Hunter and the sight of Vinnie Jones scything down Steve McMahon in the early stages of the 1988 FA Cup final appear strong-arm tactics by modern standards.
However, these images were nothing compared to the methods used by CF Canelas 2010 to escape the fourth tier of the Portuguese League.
Canelas had won six of their first seven fixtures, but word got around – helped by some rather graphic detail posted on YouTube – that they did not have much regard for the spirit of the game.
One infamous video that garnered almost two million views showed high kicks to the chest and head, unsubtle tackles off the ball, and crazed lunges from behind.
Even The New York Times covered the club’s dubious methods with the headline: ‘The Soccer Team That No One Wants to Play.’
The executives of the league’s other teams held a series of secret meetings and all but one decided their squad would refuse to play Canelas.
Porto’s local soccer association informed them of the consequences – a fine of €750 for each game missed and a walkover win for their feared opponents– but they stood firm. Canelas won 11 straight matches through forfeits.
Madureira insisted that his side merely liked to “play hard, tough and with physical contact. We are not a violent team. We are an aggressive team that plays with passion….no one is stepping on the pitch with a gun or a stick.”
He claimed that videos posted online of his team’s roughhouse tactics were edited to smear the club.
Games Get Out of Hand
CD Candal were the first opponents to play Canelas in over two months in February 2017. Candal had the temerity to prevail on the green grass 2-0, despite having a man sent off themselves. They obviously gave as good as they got.
When things got completely out of hand, police SWAT teams were even sent to games!
In April 2017, a red card was shown to Portuguese player Marco Gonçalves two minutes into a fixture against Rio Tinto after he punched an opponent. Gonçalves responded by placing his knee into the face of the referee.
The police stormed the pitch as the unfortunate official headed off in an ambulance. The club immediately banned Goncalves from wearing the club shirt ever again and he received an 11-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
The number 10 insisted he didn’t remember a thing, but the official ban read: “Four years for assaulting a referee, two months for insults and threats, and three months for assaulting an opposition player.”
No wonder Canelas became the only club that didn’t have local referees. They were too frightened.
Goncalves, along with other players, was a member of the Ultras, the biggest and most feared cabal of hardcore FC Porto dissidents.
However, the real protagonist was – and still is – Madureira – who goes by the moniker ‘Macaco’ (monkey) and is the spiritual commander of the feared ‘Super Dragons’.
Even as recently as Summer 2023, he was convicted of four offences that related to acts of incitement to violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
A New Reputation
During the COVID crisis of 2020, a new and unexpected twist came to the story when Portuguese entrepreneur and philanthropist Caesar DePaco announced his intention to invest, becoming an official patron and owner.
His intention was to move the dial on a very chequered history.
“All history has a past and a past, which was hard, cannot be erased. A past with controversy, but which has a present that is proud to be one of the few clubs in the world that keeps salaries up to date, despite the pandemic, and that is committed to changing the paradigm of violence with which it was labelled,” announced DePaco.
DePaco insisted that the club would become professionalised with Madureira, who kept a 39% stake in ownership. He also wanted the club to become a beacon or a base for the development of young people as men.
It remains to be seen whether the ghosts of the past can be extinguished, but Madureira’s negative headlines with the Ultras are a constant reminder of his questionable ethics.
Today’s CF Canelas 2010 Team
In August, they lost 8-0 to Felgueiras with nine men remaining. Old habits die hard.
They remain a Liga 3 Club with a small budget but have just made headlines of a more positive nature by knocking out Primera League club Chaves on penalties in the third round of the Taca de Portugal.
If, by some chance, the draw in the Cup brought its big neighbour Porto and Canelas together, what would Madureira think? "If it's FC Porto? No, it can't be. That's unnatural, it can't be," he said.
One thing is for sure. The second most decorated club in Portugal wouldn’t be kicked off the pitch.
Featured image credits: MensXP