Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Porto Faces Champions League Ban, Dragged Down by President Pinto da Costa

If there's a bigger scumbag in European football than FC Porto president Jorge Pinto da Costa, then we haven't met him yet. Da Costa, along with officials from Boavista and Uniao Leiria, was nailed on match-fixing and corruption charges and banned from football for two years. Six points were also deducted from Porto's final 2007-08 point total--inconsequential because Porto won the Portuguese title by 20 points.

Now there's talk Porto could be barred from the Champions League next season. The bribery charges stem back to the 2003-04 season when Porto won the domestic title and Champions League under Jose Mourinho. The trickle down would be tremendous should Porto be barred. Wither Quaresma, Lopez and Lucho Gonzalez if there's no European crown to contend for? Porto already has lost defender Boswinga to Chelsea. Porto plays Sporting on Sunday in the Portuguese Cup final.

Portuguese soccer is the backwater of European football. This is not the first such scandal to envelop Pinto da Costa. He was the subject of a tell-all book by his girlfriend in 2006, who detailed more bribery, match-fixing and beatdowns. Benfica, another once-glorious club, is in constant financial difficulty and Sporting, third among the big three, is only too willing to sell off its stable of young talent to make ends meet.

Boavista, a second-tier team, and the only club to win the first division title in the last 50 years aside from the big three, faces a dire future. It was relegated to the second division, watched as its entire board of directors resigned and its players threatened to strike if back wages were not paid.

Now this. Porto likely won't be barred from the Champions League, but as long as Pinto da Costa is affiliated with the club, it's a black eye on the team and the league as much as Porto is its greatest symbol of recent success.

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