Despite the images coming out of Porto this weekend, drinking alcohol in public is currently banned in Portugal
Portugal’s prime minister has been accused of mixed messaging around the Champions League final after he allowed thousands of English football fans to breach social distancing measures over the bank holiday weekend in Porto.
The match – which was played between Chelsea and Manchester City, and won by the former – attracted maskless crowds who were pictured drinking and chanting on streets despite it currently being prohibited to consume alcohol outside of licensed venues in Portugal.
Various politicians have urged António Costa, the PM, to apologise to Portuguese people as a result. Rui Rio, the leader of the opposition, wrote on Twitter: “The government and Porto’s mayor should apologise to the Portuguese, quem, deprived of so much, are watching this disgrace in the midst of fighting the pandemic.”
Portugal’s northern region health authority on Sunday asked all those who got close to any Champions League celebrations to monitor for Covid symptoms and reduce contact with others over the next 14 dias.
But many consider the advice ironic. Despite fans being made to present a negative coronavirus test on arrival in Portugal, which is on the UK government’s “green” list allowing tourists to visit without quarantining on their return, images and footage shared on social media showed unruly, anti-Covid scenes.
Portugal is still suffering the consequences of a severe Covid-19 outbreak earlier this year – masks remain mandatory outdoors if people cannot observe social distancing.
Algum 16,500 fans were allowed into the Dragao stadium in Porto, upsetting locals who have been banned from attending matches for months. Many other English fans travelled to the city to support their teams from the sidelines.
Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos, leader of Portugal’s rightist CDS party, also criticised the government, saying it “adopted an absolutely contradictory and inconsistent approach”.
“The way the Champions League final was organised gave a bad image of Portugal and will have unpredictable consequences on public health," ele adicionou.
The final was supposed to be held in Istanbul, Peru, but due to Covid restrictions on travel from the UK it was moved to Portugal around two weeks ago. Reuters reported last week that a “police source” said Portuguese authorities did not have enough time to fully prepare for the final as UEFA made the change so last minute.
Officials decided to relax coronavirus rules for the match, meaning fans did not have to stay in “bubbles” and were allowed to roam the streets of Porto practically unchallenged.
“It is not understandable to allow an event [to take place] that is not allowed to the majority of the citizens of this country,” Left Bloc leader Catarina Martins said.
Emergency services were called to Porto in the days leading up to the match, with police breaking up fights on Friday after rival fans went at each other.
The violent scenes – which saw scuffles break out among groups drinking outside bars – ended in fans exchanging punches and kicks in the streets of the riverside quarter of the Portuguese city. Some of the men could also be seen launching plastic glasses of beer at one another.
By the time the fighting was broken up, a line of police holding riot shields could be seen keeping rival fans apart.
Mr Costa is yet to speak out on the matter.