Portuguese club's petty president suspends entire first team after Facebook criticism

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Sporting Club de Portugal president Bruno de Carvalho before a Europa League match. (Getty)
Sporting Club de Portugal president Bruno de Carvalho before a Europa League match. (Getty)

Among the ways to respond to a loss, critical social media posts are far from the most extraordinary or overreactionary in sports. But the fallout from one by the president of Sporting CP – also known as Sporting Lisbon – this past week has sent one of Portugal’s most famous and successful clubs into turmoil.

It might me the wildest story in European soccer right now, and the upshot is that the third-place team in the Portuguese first division could play Sunday’s game against Pacos de Ferreira without any first-team players – because all of them are suspended.

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Bruno de Carvalho, whose approval rating among fans has been high for most of his tenure as Sporting CP president, took to Facebook to air frustrations after a 2-0 Europa League quarterfinal first leg loss to Atletico Madrid on Thursday.

He called out several players by name. He accused Bas Dost and Fabio Coentrao of purposefully getting yellow cards. He criticized the performances of Sebastian Coates, Jeremy Mathieu, Fredy Montero and Gelson Martins.

Here’s the post, which is in Portuguese but can be roughly translated to English on Facebook:

In response to Carvalho’s criticism, there were reports – which Sporting has denied – that players refused to train. Instead, every member of the first team squad with a public social media profile used it to share identical messages. They expressed their “displeasure,” bemoaned Carvalho’s “lack of support,” and banded together against his public finger-pointing.

Somos Sporting Clube de Portugal, em nome do plantel, somos a informar o seguinte… Suamos, lutamos e honramos sempre a camisola que vestimos. Não somos perfeitos e não acreditamos em jogadores perfeitos, porque queremos sempre evoluir! Não existem jogadores nem equipas perfeitas, mas quando as coisas não correm como queremos, sabemos assumir as nossas responsabilidades. Todos nós temos de o fazer! Quando vencemos, empatamos ou perdemos… sim… porque no Futebol estes são os resultados possíveis, a responsabilidade é sempre de todos! Somos uma equipa! Somos um grupo unido de um Grande Clube onde o respeito é uma das bases necessárias a essa união. Não podemos pensar apenas no “Eu”, mas sim “Nós” e sempre na equipa, porque só assim poderemos vencer. No nosso Clube, nas seleções nacionais que representamos, sempre damos e continuaremos a dar o nosso melhor, porque o querer é uma constante. Somos profissionais, somos humanos! A nossa integridade e o nosso compromisso são sagrados! Esforço, dedicação, devoção e glória sempre! Damos o máximo pelo Sporting Clube de Portugal, damos o máximo por nós próprios enquanto equipa, individualmente enquanto atletas. Lutamos pelo nosso Clube, pelos nossos adeptos e por nós, sempre! Não há outra forma séria de estar no Futebol Profissional que não seja esta… Por esta razão, em nome de todo o plantel do SCP, espelhamos neste texto o nosso desagrado, por vir a publico as declarações do nosso Presidente, após o jogo de ontem, no qual obtivemos um resultado que não queríamos… a ausência de apoio, neste momento…, daquele que deveria ser o nosso líder. Apontar o dedo para culpabilizar o desempenho dos atletas publicamente, quando a união de um grupo se rege pelo esforço conjunto, seja qual for a situação que estejamos a passar, todos os assuntos resolvem-se dentro do grupo. Saibamos ver que, por maiores que sejam as dificuldades, ainda há muito para disputar. Temos uma recta final em várias competições e vamos, haja o que houver, unidos e coesos, dar o máximo pelo Sporting Clube de Portugal. Somos Sporting Clube de Portugal.

A post shared by William Carvalho (@wcarvalho14) on Apr 6, 2018 at 9:34am PDT


Carvalho’s response? To reportedly suspend every single player who posted the message – and later others who don’t have public Facebook or Instagram accounts, but who have stood in solidarity with the players who do. There are reportedly at least 19 players who have been suspended.

And Fabio Coentrao, on loan from Real Madrid, has reportedly had his loan terminated, meaning he’s no longer a Sporting player after the public fight between players and president.

All suspended players have reportedly been barred from entering the club’s training facility. So Sporting – in third place, six points back of league-leading Benfica with six matches to play – will willingly field a reserve team for Sunday’s match.


But there’s another problem: Sporting manager Jorge Jesus is backing the players in the dispute, and there are reports that he’ll resign if Carvalho doesn’t walk back the suspensions.


So around 24 hours before Sunday’s game, and just days before the Europa League quarterfinal second leg, this feud, which threatens to derail the team’s seasons, has definitely not been settled.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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