Luis Filipe Vieira

On Sunday night, Benfica celebrated the 112th anniversary of their foundation with a gala event at the Camões Theatre in Lisbon.

In his presidential address, Luís Filipe Vieira praised the work done by everyone at the club, declaring that "innovation is present at the (Caixa Futebol Campus) in Seixal, at the Estádio da Luz, in marketing, in human resources, and throughout our organisation."

Before concluding his speech, the 66-year old could not resist taking a swipe at arch-rivals Sporting and the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF).

Relations between Lisbon's most successful clubs are frosty at the best of times, but have plunged to new depths this season. First, there was the acrimonious departure of Jorge Jesus, with Vieira claiming that the controversial coach had taken over the reins at Sporting before the expiry of his contract with Benfica. Next, there were accusations from Sporting that Benfica have been attempting to influence referees by bestowing them with gifts such as replica shirts.

And then there were Benfica's complaints over Islam Slimani's elbow on Andreas Samaris during the Portuguese Cup tie in November. The Algerian striker avoided dismissal and went on to score an extra-time winner. In response, Sporting highlighted a series of fouls committed by Benfica players that went unpunished.

Although Vieira did not refer to anyone by name, there was little doubt that his prime target was Bruno de Carvalho, his opposite number at the Estádio José Alvalade.

"We can continue to accept those that make division, conflict and intimidation their way of life, and think that Portuguese football can survive this. Or else we have to reject all of this and demand behaviour guided by ethics and responsibility."

"We all have an obligation to develop football in Portugal, to project it as a product of excellence, to enhance it to an international level, and this obliges us to fight the most aggressive and primary fanaticism."

Vieira went on to attack the FPF, who have yet to make a ruling on the Slimani incident, despite having had over 3 months to do so.

"So that there are no doubts, the (disciplinary system) must be swift, should punish or exonerate, but it has to be very quick in its decisions."

On Saturday night, Benfica and Sporting face each other for the fourth time this season. Vieira argued that Slimani's sentencing should not take place this week, as it would only serve to inflame tensions ahead of the derby.

"To avoid demagoguery or absurd polemics, I say today that I hope that no player from the team that we will face on the next matchday is prevented from playing against us."

"Justice should be done... indeed it should already have been done... but, so that there is no type of suspicion, punish - if you have to do so - after our game."

The disciplinary process rumbles on, with a decision expected sometime in March.

Vieira became the 33rd president of Benfica in October 2003. He is currently the longest-serving president in the club's history. The team has won 4 league titles during his tenure, including 3 under the management of Jorge Jesus.



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