American Football Season In Portugal In Full Swing With A Shocking Early Upset!

The Portuguese American Football Federation (LPFA – Liga Paulista de Futebol Americano ) season is already fully underway, well before Christmas. A season which traditionally kicked off in early January in Portugal and finished in late May, has started slightly early this year.

And it has already offered up surprises with a major upset and power shift. The Lisboa Devils, in only their second season, have not only emerged as an early favorite but in the process they crushed their crosstown rivals and five-year defending champion Lisboa Navigators 51-8. The suddenness of this change has sent tremors through the league.

The Lisboa Navigators have dominated American football in Portugal since their inception in 2009. They have won the league title every year since then. They had not been beaten since 2013. This was a loss of epic proportions.

Portugal - Lisboa Devils - Gasquet

Malcolm Gasque

The reason for this sudden improvement? The Devils have signed three American imports, highly unusual in Portuguese American football. Quarterback Joey Bradley, ex NFL tight end Collin Franklin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Malcolm Gasque. Meanwhile, Canadian Anthony Skinner has taken over much of the coaching duties, but with a twist. He works as a distance coach. Relying on Hudl and various other digital methods he helps the team from his home in Ottawa and then flies over a couple of times a year when his duties as an Ottawa City police officer allow him.

In fact, his impact was noticeable this past season when the Devils in their first year in the league advanced to the semi-finals and were ousted by the Navigators but by a narrow 34-29 score.

In the season opener on November 21, the Navigators and Lisbon Crusaders faced each other in a rematch of the league championship game with the Navigators coming out on top 15-7. On that same weekend the Paredes Lumberjacks beat the Black Knights ( new team in the league, a team from Braga ) 38-0. The Porto Mutts and Porto Renegades clashed and the Mutts won 35-6.

Portugal - Porto Mutts action 2015-16

The following weekend, the Algarve Sharks played and won against the Crusaders 32-19 in the first real upset of the season. The Sharks have also signed imports for the first time including four Americans, three players from Serbia and a Brazilian (they speak Portuguese in Brazil). The Sharks are also making a statement as title contenders. With this defeat the Crusaders, finalists last year, have already lost two games in a row.

On that same weekend the Braga Warriors played and won 28-3 against the MAIA Mustangs.

The Lumberjacks played the Mustangs and won 20-10. Also the Warriors and Mutts played with the Mutts coming out on top 32-0.

So with 10 teams vying for the league title, it appears that a couple of favorites have already emerged as the Lisboa Devils and Algarve Sharks seem to have turned the league on its head. This will be a fascinating season for American football in Portugal. With the Devils competing in the IFAF Europe Champions League tournament in 2016, Portugal is poised to step up and join the rest of Europe.

This weekend, the Lisbon Crusaders, desperate to avoid a third straight defeat, face a tough test with the Sharks coming to town. Meanwhile, newcomers the Braga Black Knights will play away against the Porto Renegades.

League Standings (after two weeks of play)

Portugal - league standings-2pic

Photo credits: Miguel Nawareth, Margarida Cautela

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.