Portugal’s Lisboa Devils: How To Build A Champion

The Lisboa Devils have become an American football force in Portugal in the past year or so. The club jumped from the middle of the pack in the Portuguese League in 2015 to the top of the heap in 2016. The team ran the table in 2016 capturing the Portuguese crown without losing a game and then also won their first international contest.

This was a club that had only been formed four years ago and was far from the thoughts of Andre Amorim, now head coach of the team.

Amorim, who is defensive coordinator of Portugal’s national team and a key figure not only in the Devils organization but in the Portuguese federation, seems to have come up with a blueprint for success.

Check out the video: How To Build A Champion

American Football International asked Amorim, who is also our correspondent in Portugal, about how he took his club from obscurity to the peak of success in his country.

American Football International: What exactly is your role with the Devils and in football in Portugal?
Andre Amorim: I have been playing football since 2007 and coaching since 2012. First with the Lisbon Navigators where we played for two years in LNFA2. After winning four championships with them I was invited to be the Devils Head Coach in 2013. Since then that’s exactly what I have been doing. With Coach Anthony Skinner serving has a mentor since 2014 I first was also acting has the OC. With the arrival of my friend Joey Bradley I moved to DC where I until this date work with Coach Skinner.

Besides the coaching I am a firm believer in spreading the word of football all over the world and I am very proud of contributing to sites like American Football International, Futebolamericano.eu or my personal project FA Portugal.

AFI: How long have the Devils been in existence?

Amorim: The Devils have existed since 2013. I am the first and until now only head coach for the team.

AFI: You finished 4-4 in 2015 and in 2016 you won the title going undefeated. How did you do this?

Amorim: With vision and a plan. After going 2-7 in the first year we clearly identified that experiencing was lacking in terms of system and coaching. We added that and went 5-5 in the 2nd year. After that we realized that not only we needed coaching experience but also playing experience that could contribute for the overall improvement of our homegrown players. We added players like Joey Bradley (that eventually took over as OC) and Collin Franklin.

We also invest a lot in communication, brand development and marketing. We do not give false steps and we really think about the impact and future of our team.
AFI: Were you the first team in Portugal to bring in imports?

Amorim: Well that’s something I can’t really give a 100% reply because it depends on the interpretation that you have of what is an import. A couple of teams always had American influence in their rosters from ex-players that for some reason or other were based at that time in Portugal. But they had jobs or where full residents in Portugal besides playing/coaching in that particular team

But if the definition of imports are bringing players/coaches to only play/coach for a limited period of time, yes. We where the first team to do it and others teams followed in that same year.

AFI: Other than the imports, what did you do different in 2016?

Amorim: Since 2013 we had a three year plan. The 3 C plan. First year would be creation. Second year consolidation. Third year conquest.

So 2016 was the sum of those two years. And we complyed with our plan and achieved our main goal. We did not made anything differently from the past years. We just respected the process, worked hard and believed in ourselves.

AFI: You have both your QB and leading receiver back. How has life been for them?

Amorim: I am wary of replying on their behalf but they love the team, our group of guys and life in Portugal. Joey is a great player, great coach and was a great addition to our organization on all aspects. He wants to be a coach in the future and I am sure he will be successful doing that. As for Collin, he is a more under the radar guy but very competitive, always helping to improve and just a great guy to have around.

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AFI: It seems that other teams in Portugal have taken your lead and have now done the same. Do you think you can compete against the top Spanish teams, your closest neighbours?
Amorim: I firmly believe we can compete against any Spanish team and I would love to see it happen.

AFI: What will it take in your opinion for Portugal to reach the elite level in Europe?

Amorim: We need to get better foundations for our league, invest in the development of young players, attract sponsors and just create a long term development plan for our league. We need to see the big picture and not only focus on ourselves as individuals.

AFI: Have you thought about playing Brazilian teams?

Amorim: The reality is that week after week I have Brazilian players reaching out to come and play in Portugal. They see the potential of our league, teams and country. I would love to see us competing against Brazilian teams and I think we could really make a big show for whoever wants to come and see.

The only thing I would really like to add is that football really taught me that if we want to go fast we can go alone but if we want to go further we need to go together. I would like to see the IFAF battles that have been going underway stop and find an united Europe and focused in creating competition, great games, life experience to all involved with American Football.

One of the reasons we will not participate in the IFAF Champions League is the poor model that was created for this year’s league. I believe that the IFAF organization did its best with what they had but the reality is that most teams didn’t participated due to all the sketchiness that is going around.

We want to compete with the best in Portugal, the best in Europe and I know that will only happen if we stand together. So let’s unite Football all over Europe.


Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.