Benfica are an international club with an international fanbase. In this new, regular feature, we chat to supporters from around the globe, and ask them what it means to be a Benfiquista. Our first interviewee is English fan Pete Domican.
Where are you from, where do you live, and what is your occupation?
I’m from Bolton in the North West of England. I went to the same school (but not at the same time!) as Alan Ball, who was in the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. I now live in Welwyn Garden City, which is just outside London. I’m a management consultant, photographer and writer.
When and why did you become a Benfiquista?
In 2009. My ex-girlfriend is a Benfiquista. It’s cheesy but true to say that I lost one love but gained another. I’m not sure there’s a logical reason for it all, so I’ll put it down to A Mística. I’m sure she and my family and friends think I’m nuts. They’re probably right.
Who are your favourite Benfica players, past and present?
The English have long recognised Eusébio as one of the world’s greatest because of the 1966 World Cup, but I love him for everything he represents about Benfica. Pablo Aimar was always one of my favourite players. To see him at Benfica was something special. Luisão will always be O Capitão to me. He’s been a wonderful player for Benfica and it’s sad that he’s reaching the end of the road as a Benfica player.
Have you visited the Estádio da Luz or seen any Benfica games live?
My first game was against Marítimo in 2009 and I’m there as often as I can be. I spent a month in Lisbon a couple of years ago and now it feels like home. Even though I’m not Portuguese, I feel saudades when I’ve not been there for a while.
What was your favourite moment as a Benfiquista?
Winning the Tri: being at the Estádio da Luz and the whole day from waking up, seeing the team bus arrive, the game itself, and standing in Marquês afterwards. I saw Renato Sanches’ first goal for Benfica against Académica earlier in the season, so seeing him celebrate felt very special. The day after the game, I started Portuguese School as a virtual beginner. My teacher began by telling me that she was really happy because her team Benfica had won the Championship. She was completely bemused when she discovered that the English guy she had to teach that week was a Sócio and had been at the game!
What was your worst moment?
The last minute defeat in O Clássico in 2013 still haunts me. Can we talk about something else?
For you, what makes Benfica special or unique?
The fans and their passion for the team are the things that make Benfica special. Holding up the scarf and singing ‘Ser Benfiquista’ (in my terrible Portuguese) at the Estádio da Luz always sends shivers down my spine. I’ve loved meeting up at games, either in Portugal or in the UK, with Benfiquistas I’ve met online through Planet Benfica and the Benfica Podcast. Not being fluent in Portuguese inevitably means that you struggle with some things, so the friendship and help from all of these people across the world means a lot.
If you could change one thing about the club, team or fans, what would it be?
The finances! It’s sad to watch hugely talented players leave well before we’ve really had a chance to see them at their best. It’s necessary but I don’t think it’s beneficial for the players’ development. I think ‘big’ clubs (I hate that term) buy players way too early, Marković being one of the the worst examples. Many players would have benefited more from another year at Benfica in my opinion.
Do you support any other teams besides Benfica?
I have been a Tottenham Hotspur season ticket holder for many years, most of them forgettable. We’ve also suffered in the past from losing players to richer clubs, like Luka Modrić and Gareth Bale, but with Mauricio Pochettino in charge, a good player development system (although it’s not quite Seixal), and the new 61,000 capacity stadium being built next door to our old one, it’s definitely looking more positive.
What are your hobbies apart from watching the Eagles?
Outside football, photography and writing take up most of my time, although they are increasingly becoming work rather than just a hobby. I am still learning Portuguese (albeit at a glacial pace), so as my Portuguese improves, the more passionate I become about Benfica and Portuguese culture in general, especially Fado.