The Lower Leagues of Portugal - A C.F. Oliveira do Douro Story


Jul 16, 2022
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C.F. Oliveira do Douro
, also known as Clube de Futebol Oliveira do Douro or simply Oliveira, is a semi-professional Portuguese club in the northern region of the country. Founded in 1932, the club is based in the town of Oliveira do Douro, located in the northern region of Portugal and part of the parish of Vila Nova de Gaia, a city just south of Porto, with over 300,000 residents. And it's my first FM24 long-term save of the year.

Why Oliveira? Why not XYZ FC?

It's my hometown, and their infrequent appearance in the game makes it challenging to manage a save with them. Additionally, having endured long-distance support due to living outside of Portugal and having to follow results through social media posts and frequent refreshing during important fixtures has somehow strengthened my connection with the club. It's a bit difficult to explain.

The region of Oliveira do Douro


A small town with around 22,000 residents, not to be confused with the Oliveira do Douro in Cinfães, Viseu. Yes, we named two towns that are about an hour and a half away from each other the same. Not confusing at all.

Oliveira is named after an olive tree, which provides olives, and these are significant in Portugal, a country known for its olive-growing tradition. Olives are also used to make olive oil, another export Portugal is known for. This type of tree used to be highly sought after during the medieval era due to its rarity and value.

"Douro" likely refers to the area, as there's a river with that name, the Douro River, which separates the cities of Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto. Contrary to what you might think, a river between both cities is not a metaphor for a strained relationship, as Gaia and Porto regularly collaborate and don't burn bridges (otherwise, how could you travel between the cities?!).


Stuck in Regional Limbo - A Short Overview of the Last Season(s)

C.F. Oliveira do Douro has primarily competed in the lower divisions of Portuguese football, never going beyond the (old) 3rd Division of Portugal and mainly staying in the 1st Division of its regional league, the AF Porto (Porto FA). The club plays an essential role in the local and regional football scene, with a strong community base, serving as a training ground for young, aspiring footballers from the region. The most famous of these being João Domingos da Silva Pinto, commonly known as João Pinto, an iconic FC Porto right-back who was part of the 1987 European Cup-winning team and won 9 league titles. He started his youth career at Oliveira do Douro before moving to FC Porto, where he remained for the rest of his youth and professional career. Fun fact: The trophy room at the club's stadium is named after him, and he even served as Club President at one point.


In terms of silverware, the club only has a few regional trophies to showcase. A few AF Porto league titles, as well as winning the regional cup once in 2014/15. Oliveira's longest stay in a non-regional division was 5 years, from 2006/07 until 2010/11, which was the last time the club competed in it. Last season, they were promoted to the 4th Division, which is the remnant of the old 3rd Division, after 12 years of regional limbo. During these 12 years, the old 3rd Division underwent two structural changes, one of them changing to the 4th Division with the creation of a new 3rd Division (more on that later. Believe me, if you need a cooldown from the Tottenham-Chelsea game, you're in the right place!).

As is typically the norm for local teams in Portugal, the development of local talent is one of their primary focal points, earning them a loyal following in their community, with strong home and away crowds. Also, as with many Portuguese clubs, the club participates in other sports, including track and field.

The (new) stadium






The club's home matches are held at the Estádio do Clube de Futebol de Oliveira do Douro, a stadium that was only recently built in 2016, with a capacity of 1,500.

The opening match resulted in a narrow 2-1 defeat to FC Porto in late May 2016. Granted, it was basically their reserve team. But still.


An attempt at a (brief) explanation of the confusing Portuguese regional football structure and Oliveira's struggles to get promoted
(believe me, I tried my best to keep it as brief as possible)

So why was Oliveira stuck in the AF Porto for so long? Well, first, you need to understand how complicated the regional league setup in Portugal is (and why it's probably not included in the game). There are a total of 22 regional FAs and, in turn, 22 regional leagues. And 20 spots for promotions between them all. Already confused?

The top division of Oliveira's regional FA, the AF Porto, has 32 participants. The competition is divided into two groups with equal participants. The first two from each group enter a "Champion's Promotion" 4-team group, akin to the current Champions League group stage, with each team playing each other twice. The 1st place team is crowned the Division's champion and is automatically promoted to the 4th Division, the Campeonato de Portugal. That's it. One promotion place among 32 teams. A club has to be near perfect to achieve promotion. And Oliveira do Douro finished 2nd, losing its second league game of the season to the eventual champions, AD Marco 09, and drawing their last two...

1st League stage

Previous League standing.jpg.png

Champion's Promotion Group (note that while the Oliveira is highlighted green, this wasn't the case at the end of the season. Explaination to come.)

Champion's Playoff Group.png

While being runners-up would allow them to participate in the Portuguese Cup the following season, it was still a disappointing end to an otherwise fantastic season. While not the best season offensively and having, ultimately, drawn way too many games, Oliveira was the team with the best defensive record in the entire division. Regardless, the dreamy season seemed to conclude in heartbreak when suddenly, sometime in mid-July, I see this...


Apparently, when other regional champions are unable or refuse to be promoted to the higher national division, those spots go to the 2nd best teams from other bigger regional FAs, usually the Lisbon, Porto, and Braga ones. Why? I'm not sure, but I'm not complaining! And thus, Oliveira do Douro is 4th Division-bound and in this year's Football Manager.


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Oliveira do Douro in present day

League standing.jpg

Being primarily a regional club for so long, and only technically promoted in mid-July, this coming season was expected to be a struggle. As of November 6th, Oliveira sits mid-table with 12 points from a possible 27. While they are only 2 points above the first of FIVE relegation spots, they are yet to play against some of the underperforming teams in their group, including familiar Marco 09. So, not a bad start for a club that didn't expect to be in the 4th division this season. But it will be a fight until the very end to stay in the division.

But speaking of this division, let's head to FM to explain how the Campeonato de Portugal works.

Campeonato de Portugal - An Essay


Thankfully, we have screenshots (in English) to help you understand this complex system. It's still rather complicated, so bear with me. Now I remember why I usually avoid Portugal when attempting lower league saves...

There are a total of 56 clubs in the Campeonato de Portugal, divided into 4 groups with an equal number of participants (14 each). We are in Group B, just like in real life, playing the same teams we would in real life, except for Vitória SC B. They were replaced by Gondomar SC for some reason. Those with some knowledge of Portuguese geography will notice the relative close distance between all the teams. This is done purposefully, considering that most clubs are semi-professional and don't have the funds to travel across the country for matches every weekend. I believe the same philosophy is shared in the 3rd Division, Liga 3, but we'll get to that... someday.


Finishing 10th or lower immediately ends the save, as the regional divisions are not included in the game. Finishing in the top 2 of any of the 4 groups leads the top 8 clubs to another group phase.


Yes, the promotion stage once again divides the 8 clubs into 2 separate groups. The good thing is that finishing in the top 2 of either group grants you promotion to Liga 3! Finishing at the top allows each group's best team to play each other in the Champions Playoff Final to crown the division's champion.

I already have migraines, and I'm yet to hit "continue". Hopefully, Liga 3 is a bit simpler than that. Spoiler alert: It's not.



Squad registration isn't too strict as is the case in Portugal, but there isn't much money, as to be expected. We have to work with what we have and hope we can find some players who don't mind playing for a glass of Super Bock and some bolinhos de bacalhau – I mean, it's just as good, right?


Maybe even some retirees. Does anyone have Hazard's number?


So, our objective is very clearly to avoid relegation at all costs, and the board agrees. We'll also try to go as far as we can in the Portuguese Cup to raise some funds.

Squad Overview:


A very young squad with some potential, with our 39-year-old captain bringing the average age significantly up. Experience is, however, needed.

Key players:

Miguel Paiva

Goalkeeper of the year for AF Porto and will probably remain the #1 until we get out of the division.

Igor Rocha

Our captain! Despite his lack of legs, the lower league Pepe is still a quality center-back for this division. His experience in every division of Portugal, including a little over a dozen games in the top tier, will be invaluable.

The Pelegrini Bros.


Brother João can be used both as a center-back and defensive midfielder and was a key figure in last season's promotion, while brother Bruno, who just joined the club, will be our go-to man up front. Both come from Santos' academy in Brazil, so I'm expecting big things from them.

This is my first time doing this, so I'm open to suggestions on how to improve! The next update should feature our tactic, our pre-season results and any incoming/outgoing players... provided anyone accepts my generous offer. Come on, it's free beer and food!


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Chapter 1: Drama... Drama everywhere

Screenshot 2023-11-07 203512.png

In the midst of the political chaos in Portugal's political landscape, we are stabilizing into a halfway decent football side. Currently, we're sitting in 2nd place of our group and have already played the 1st round of the cup! I realize I said I'd be doing an update once our pre-season ended, but honestly, this save has been a blast, with it's own share of dream, of course. Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

I didn't go into much detail about the squad initially because I wasn't sure how I'd even play. Having tried a standard 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3, I found that the latter was more effective, despite not having the necessary players for the roles. Now, I'm no Pep (I still have my hair, thankfully!), but I usually prefer a more fluid system with attacking fullbacks and creativity, which is challenging in the 4th tier of Portuguese football, since everyone's mentals are... Well, below average. But playing a direct Big Sam/Sean Dyche style of football is unappealing and I have difficulty executing that style in the game. So, I decided to set up like this:


Essentially, we focus our play out wide, trying to cut inside or pass back to our striker, a target forward, who looks to hold the ball up and free up space for our wide players. We lacked a player for that role, so I searched for a loanee who could play there. In fact, we find ourselves with an abundance of loanees, but more on that later. I usually don't like having that many instructions, however it seems to be going well.

The significant issues I had with the current squad were the lack of a proper BBM and half-decent fullbacks. Now, I found some fullbacks, but only signed one player with actual wages. However, he wanted to be a star player, which was fine by me. Then we got to his wage demands, and, well...

pls don't look at my wages, they're just a typo, I promise.

It turns out star players at our club have to earn a minimum of €120 p/w. And everyone I looked at wanted to be a star player. This man, despite not knowing how to dribble a ball, was the best I could find. However, the wage issue led me to "sell" someone to pay everyone's wages, and fortunately, it was just a backup center-back who was injury-prone.


All of my other signings were free loans. Because loans are our best friends.

Our 4th choice CB

The lost son of Sérgio Conceição (decent option of the bench as decent backup wingers were really necessary)

João Pinto (no, not that one)

A FOURTH choice right-back. Can you tell I'm paranoid about injuries?

The only left-back we brought in and probably our best signing attributes wise

Nicolai Skoglund (aka Temu's version of Erling Haaland)

Bruno did decently, but the problem is a box-to-box midfielder has been tough to find. Diogo Machado can play there, but he's also the best advanced playmaker we have, and we'd lose out on his creativity. Bakhtin does a job there, but he's been inconsistent since the season started, with the only real worrying performance being in our only loss. But finding a player that can play in either role and keeping Bakhtin as a solid backup option seems to be the next move in the transfer market. However, no loan-listed player currently fits or would be a better option for both of these roles, and we don't have the money for a free transfer, unless you know of a player willing to take a wage of €7 p/w.


Our balance looks a lot better thanks to the 60 season ticket holders and the friendlies we had, which went better than expected. We seemed to click right away, and besides a 3-1 loss to 2nd-tier Tondela and a draw against Rio Ave's U23s (where we, to be fair, played a mostly rotated side), we won every friendly and showed good signs. This transitioned to the start of the season, which began with a lot of drama.


A tight game to start the season where we only managed to go ahead in the 83rd minute thanks to our captain's penalty. He's also the best set-piece taker as our centre-back and, at the same time, the best aerial presence. Gotta love lower league football. We won on matchdays 2 and 3, but the fairy tale start came to an end in a 3-1 defeat at home, where our lackluster shooting came to bite us.


I went a bit mad trying to nick a goal in the end, but to no avail. Nothing like a defeat right before an important cup tie, though, right? In the first round of the Portuguese Cup, we played against Esperança de Lagos, a team in the regional divisions of Portugal. You'd think we might have had an easier time. However, as I said in the first post, this team, despite our recent results, is still a regional-level team and needs work. We were the more dominant team for the full 90 minutes and even managed to score first after multiple attempts. However, our opponents scored thanks to a deflected own goal by our 3rd choice CB from a very easy to deal with cross.

After 90 minutes, we went to extra time, but our legs were starting to give out. We were feeling the pressure from Lagos, and just as we thought it couldn't get worse, our winger got injured with no subs left. Our best chances came from corners that led to counters from the home team. Despite that, the game went to penalties, and it was up to our goalkeeper, Miguel Paiva, the best goalkeeper of last season's AF Porto, to step up and produce something magical...


And he did! Our goalkeeper not only saved two penalties but also scored the second-to-last penalty! Raise the man a statue, I say! No rest for the weary, though, as two days after our heroics, we learned who our 2nd round opponents are.

Cup Draw.jpg

Fellow Campeonato de Portugal side, União de Santarém, are the team between us and a precious 3rd round appearance. In the 3rd round, we could be drawn against a club from the top division in Portugal, potentially causing a sellout of our stadium (lower league sides are automatically drawn as the home team in the 3rd round) and a sizeable gate receipt. But first things first.

The run ahead.jpg

A look at the schedule brings us down to Earth and remember that there's still a lot of football to be played and form can easily go down the drain with a couple of bad results. I'll probably come back sometime near December/January, unless things go really bad. Fingers crossed that it won't, though!


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