While football remains the first love for most of Europe, if we were to pick a second favourite, it would have to be basketball for many, and the same is the case with Portugal. The country may not be one of the world’s top basketball-playing countries, but it has a long-standing history when it comes to the sport and is also one of the founding countries of FIBA, the world’s official basketball governing body.
If you are curious to learn how basketball became such a loved sport for the Portuguese and its current status in the country today, here is your chance to find out.
History of basketball in Portugal
When James Naismith first invented basketball in 1891, its international growth was as instant and phenomenal as its domestic growth. The Christian missionaries introduced the rest of the world to the game and helped make it one of the world’s first global games. Europe quickly jumped on the bandwagon, and the first Inter-Allied games were held in Paris in 1919 between US, Italy and France.
As its popularity spread throughout Europe, the Portuguese, too, developed an interest in the sport. The Portuguese Basketball Federation was established in August 1927. The national team played its first international match in 1931 against France and lost by 9-32.
In 1932, Portugal, along with seven other countries, formed FIBA, Fédération Internationale de Basketball, in Geneva, Switzerland. Besides Portugal, the founding members included Czechoslovakia, Argentina, Latvia, Greece, Romania, Italy and Switzerland.
In 1935, the Portuguese basketball team played in the only qualifying match for the 1st European Basketball Championship, where it lost to Spain and was eliminated from the qualification round.
Despite being one of the pioneers of basketball in Europe, Portugal has not qualified for the FIBA World Cup or the Olympics. It has, however, appeared in three EuroBasket championships but failed to make a mark.
The Portuguese National Basketball Team
The Portuguese men’s national basketball team is 54th in the FIBA rankings. The team has not yet managed to qualify for the FIBA World Cup or the Olympics. Portugal first attempted to enter the EuroBasket in 1935 and failed to qualify. Following that, the team did not enter the championship until 1951, when it made its debut at the EuroBasket championship in Paris. At the end of the group matches, the team was in third place and could not progress further, consequently being relegated to the classification rounds.
The national team did not play in the EuroBasket again until 2007 when it finished in 9th place. The team’s performance in the event was one of its best, but it was unfortunately not sufficient to get it past the group stage. The team successfully qualified for the EuroBasket in 2011, where again, it could not proceed past the group stage and was eliminated from the tournament. Since 2011, Portugal has not been able to qualify for any major international tournament.
The Portuguese women’s national basketball team is ranked 51st in FIBA. The team has been playing since 1932, but to date, it has failed to qualify for the Olympics, FIBA World Cup or the EuroBasket Championship.
Basketball league system in Portugal
Besides the national teams, Portugal also has an extensive basketball club system. The Liga Portuguesa de Basquetebol is the top professional basketball league for men in the country. The league was founded in 1932 and held its first season the same year. The current champion of the league is SL Benfica, which is also the most successful team in the league, with 28 wins.
Currently, the Liga Portuguesa de Basquetebol has 12 teams. Another prominent club in the league is the F.C. Porto. Both Benfica and Porto are the oldest basketball clubs in the country and are very competitive. These clubs have participated in various European tournaments and impressed the world with their performance.
The Liga Portuguesa de Basquetebol follows a promotion and relegation system with the Proliga, the country’s second-highest basketball division for men. It was founded in 2003 and currently has 16 teams on board. For women, the premium basketball league is the Liga Feminina de Basquetebol. It was founded in 1955 and has held annual tournaments every year since 1959.