Porto Accuse Benfica of 'Witchcraft' in Title Race

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2017

Benfica's Brazilian defender Luisao (C) holds the Portuguese League trophy past teammates as they celebrate winning their 36th title at the end of the Portuguese league football match SL Benfica vs Vitoria Guimaraes SC at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on May 13, 2017.
Lisbon giants Benfica clinched a fourth straight Portuguese league title on May 13, 2017 with a 5-0 victory over Vitoria Guimaraes.
The champions have an unassailable 81 points from 33 games and cannot be caught by Porto, who are eight points behind with just two games to play. / AFP PHOTO / JOSE MANUEL RIBEIRO        (Photo credit should read JOSE MANUEL RIBEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
JOSE MANUEL RIBEIRO/Getty Images

Porto have accused fierce rivals Benfica of using so-called "witchcraft" to help them win last season's Portuguese league title. 

Francisco J. Marques, communications director for Porto, says he has viewed an "e-mail exchange between Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira and Dr. Armando Nhaga, the ‘National Police Commissioner of Guinea-Bissau'," per Portuguese source Observador (h/t Alec Shilton of The Sun).

The exchange is said to have contained a threat of sabotage from Nhaga to stop Benfica winning a fourth Primeira Liga title in a row unless he was paid for his assistance and the help of an unnamed person referred to as "The Master in Lisbon."

Benfica's latest title win has been called into question by rivals Porto.
Benfica's latest title win has been called into question by rivals Porto.JOSE MANUEL RIBEIRO/Getty Images

Shilton relayed the main points of the Observador report, in which Nhaga is said to have asked Vieira for money to honour an agreement he had with a former Benfica board member during the previous season.

Per the reports, Marques has revealed what took place between Vieira and Nhanga: “On February 13 (Nhaga) sent an email to Vieira asking for the agreement to be signed before the games with Borussia Dortmund for the Champions League. This was followed by an incredible itemised list with fees – including £88,000 to be shelled out if Benfica won the Portuguese championship."

The situation took another turn when results didn't go Benfica's way:

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"Dortmund then somewhat predictably hammered the Eagles 4-0. Vieira e-mailed Nhaga asking what had gone wrong. The amazing reply came back: 'Whoever was dealing with it did not do it in the right moment. The Master in Lisbon waited for the communication and when they did, it was late.' Marques says ‘The Master’ is none other than Nhaga’s brother."

Marques summed up these exchanges in the following way, per the reports: ”We’re talking about witchcraft with a goal contract. It was many thousand euros that Benfica paid. This calls into question the coach, the players, but also (executives) Paulo Goncalves and Pedro Guerra."

A Champions League defeat to Dortmund was reportedly preceded and followed by some suspicious e-mails.
A Champions League defeat to Dortmund was reportedly preceded and followed by some suspicious e-mails.TF-Images/Getty Images

The accusations from Porto come amid an ongoing probe into corruption currently thought to be impacting Portuguese football. Porto have rebuffed suggestions they have been investigated, but Marques said e-mails from Benfica to ex-league president Carlos Deus Pereira suggest further corruption: “We have not been intimidated, nor have we been the target of searches. Benfica started to run that FC Porto was lying. This is a pathetic thing."

Porto's rivalry with Benfica has always been fierce. Yet while the former dominated Portuguese football for much of the last decade, Benfica's rise of late has left the 2004 UEFA Champions League winners trailing.

The ongoing probe into corruption and latest accusations seem to inadvertently have provided more reasons for these clubs to remain entrenched in their animosity toward one another.