Source Pravda.Ru

TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY: INSIDE LISBON - 9 December, 2000

Lisbon this week was the victim of “statistics journalism”, which started off as interesting and finished by being ridiculous. First, we were told that in Portugal’s population of 10 million, there are 1 million handicapped people…that is 10% of the population. One day later, the scenario became worse – there are also 100,000 drug addicts (another 1%) and in midweek, the bad news was that there were a further 1 million excessive drinkers but the good news was that only 750,000 are considered as alcoholics. Does this really mean that 18.5% of the Portuguese are handicapped, drug addicts or alcoholics? It would seem not, because yesterday, the news appeared that Portugal had managed to narrow the gap which separated it from the rest of Europe in the last 15 years. In 1985, the average Portuguese earned only 53% of the EU average earnings but now, the figure is 75%. On the subject of statistics, it has been confirmed that there are 100,000 people from eastern Europe working in Portugal, some legal, others not. Those “not” are the main victims of mafia networks, who take 10 to 20% of the workers’ wages every month for “protection”. One man who does not enter the official figures is one Portuguese, born in Spain, but not registered. In this bureaucracy-loving country, since he is not registered, he does not exist. Not existing, he cannot perform any official function. Now he is trying to provoke a reaction from the authorities by driving a car without a licence. His excuse is that since he does not exist, he cannot be penalised. The great storm of this week provoked 20 injuries and numerous cases of flooding before the weather system moved northwards to France and the UK but the real storm is the Portuguese Communist Party conference, which ends on Sunday. The party fights for its political existence in Portugal, split between orthodox and reformist elements. The 1,700 delegates are heating the seats in Lisbon’s new Atlantic Pavilion, which last week hosted the Tennis Masters’ Cup, with the presence of Safin and Kafelnikov. Finally, the football scenario again appeared in the headlines. Portugal is said to be the land of the three F’s : Football, Fado (a typical melancholic song) and Fatima (the village where the Virgin Mary appeared to three children in 1917). It was the first F this week – Lisbon’s two main football clubs, Benfica and Sporting, lost their managers. Benfica had beaten Sporting 3 – 0 last weekend. The Sporting manager, Inacio, was dismissed and the Benfica manager, Mourinho [mo-RI-niu], asked for an improved contract (possibly eyeing the free seat across the city and a better offer). The president refused and the manager resigned. The president promptly hired an old historic figure, linked to the club for decades, Toni, the last manager to bring the championship to Benfica in 1993. Meanwhile, Sporting accepted Inacio again as their manager after a lunchtime conversation. Shortly before this article was written, the hot news is now that Inacio has been dismissed for the second time in two days. These scenes explain Sporting’s pathetic Champions League campaign and the reason why Benfica has been absent from UEFA finals for as long as the memory exists.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey Pravda.Ru Lisbon