In a country with a long football tradition, how easy would it be to form a team in a sport that many had only seen on American television? Well one man tried, and it seems that the answer is, quite easy.

American Don Dixon, who was assistant coach for the Lisbon Crusaders and who helped form the Liga Portuguesa de Futebol Americano just three years ago, has now brought American football to the Algarve, and the move seems to have paid off.
Originally called the Portimão Pirates when it was formed back in May, the team has now changed its name to the Algarve Pirates as men from across the region flocked to Portimão to try out the sport. Just a few months on and the team now boasts almost 50 players, with around 30 attending training at any one time. Having moved to Portimão to start the Algarve branch of VidaMais, a non-profit organisation that helps promote cultural, educational and philanthropic initiatives, Don felt that an American football team was just the thing missing from the area. A football player in
junior high and high school, he set off to promote the idea and put a team together.

It was one such promotional tool – an article in a local paper – that caught the eye of one particular person. “I was so excited when I saw the article. All I had ever done was coaching,” says fellow American Llew Gittens, who owns a home in the Algarve. Now the head coach, Llew has been playing since he was 10 and played through junior high, high school and in the army before coaching teams in Italy and the UK.

Coaching alongside him is Don, Franz Adebahr, who played professionally in Germany for 15 years, Pedro Viana, who worked with Don during his time at the Crusaders and American football commentator for SportTV, and Michael Reeve, a well-known local businessman who was introduced to the team at the recent BLiP exhibition.

With training taking place at the sports complex in Mexilhoeira Grande, just outside Portimão, the team comprises players aged between 15 and 48 who travel from as far as Olhão in the east and Lagos in the west. All from different backgrounds, most are Portuguese but there are a number of international players, and although some do have some experience in the game, the majority are complete novices. “I’m so impressed after just six months. These are my
children and they’re doing brilliantly,” says Llew. Don agrees: “We never imagined to be able to play in this
year’s league, but they’ve been training throughout the summer and there’s so much passion already.”

With the fourth season of the national league beginning in January and with a record number of teams taking part, Don is hoping to schedule some friendlies against teams from Portugal and even Spain. “We want to promote not only the team but also the sport and the league,” he adds. Training takes place three times a week: Monday evenings for technical and tactical training, Thursday evenings to put it into practice (both from 7.30pm to 9.30pm), and Saturday mornings between 9.30am and 12pm for drills and game play.

The search for players (particularly those who are strong and/or fast, or with experience in rugby) is ongoing,
as is the search for partners and sponsors to help the development of the team. To learn more about the Algarve Pirates, please visit their Facebook page or contact Don on 960 387 408.

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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