Olivenza, between Spain and Portugal, but supports the Red in the World Cup

Ⓒ AFP – Francisco Leong – | Entrance to Spain near the town of Olivenza in Palencia where you can read “Olivença é nossa, é Portugal”

“Olivenza is ours, it’s Portugal”: the graffiti on the sign that marks the Portuguese-Spanish border recalls the 500 years of Portuguese history of this small town in the confines of Extremadura. Passed into Spanish hands, on Friday will encourage the ‘Red’ in the Portugal-Spain mundialista.

Snatched to Portugal in 1801, Olivenza (or Olivença in Portuguese) should have been returned after the ratification of the Congress of Vienna in 1817, but the city was never restored by Madrid, which continues to administer it two centuries later.

Periodically, Lisbon claims its rights over this small municipality of 12,000 inhabitants, located on the banks of the Guadiana River.

“The position of the Spanish government must be firm so that Spain finally decides to recognize Olivenza as Portuguese,” explains former parliamentarian José Ribeiro e Castro, promoter of a law that gives access to Portuguese nationality to the Oliventinos since 2014

In the center of the city, the “Manueline” style church, architecture with a great abundance of typically Portuguese motifs, is next to the town hall, where a Portuguese coat of arms sculpted on the facade. But, the authorities distance themselves from this territorial dispute.

“We work for what unites us, not for what separates us,” the socialist mayor Manuel Andrade told AFP.

“Some mistakes were made in the past, but today having celebrated Portugal’s day on June 10 for the third year in a row says a lot,” he adds.

– ‘Without Borders’ –

Ⓒ AFP – Francisco Leong – | Children play soccer in a street of Olivenza, in Badajoz (Extremadura), where they will cheer on the Red despite having their heart divided with the Portuguese

To describe his town, this 36-year-old ruler with slicked-back hair speaks of a “unique” and “borderless” place, ensuring that “the Portuguese feel at home in Olivenza”.

And his preferences are clear: “If Spain does not win the World Cup, I would like it to be Portugal,” he says with a smile.

The mix of cultures in Olivenza is embodied by Ana Márquez, a member of the bilingual folk group Acetre.

“There is this past, this ‘saudade’ (melancholy) Portuguese, but in Olivenza we are equally Spanish, double nationality is what I am, I always knew that part of me was Portuguese,” says Olivetina, who is part of of the first inhabitants to have obtained the Portuguese passport in December 2014.

Ⓒ AFP – Francisco Leong – | The mixture of cultures in Olivenza is embodied by Ana Márquez, member of the bilingual folk group Acetre

With her quiet, but vibrant voice when she takes the microphone to sing some verses, this 37-year-old brunette girl sings her love for the Lusitanian culture. But, still, the ‘Red’ is still your first choice.

“When Portugal won the European Championship, I was happy and at home we celebrated it as if it had been Spain, in the World Cup, I suppose I will support Spain more, but I will be happy if Portugal wins. I would like a draw”, says this English and Portuguese.

– Christian or the ‘Red’? –

In the Olivenza Fútbol Club, a modest club that struggles every year to stay in the third division, the ‘Roja’ is the almost unanimous choice.

“I’m with Spain for this match, but Portugal is a neighboring town, so in all other cases I support Portugal”, says José Silva, president of the team, with a hoarse voice and strong Extremadura accent.

Ⓒ AFP – Francisco Leong – | Portuguese for 500 years and source of disputes with Spain, this small Extremaduran town awaits the first game of “their two selections”, the Spain-Portugal of the 15th

The leader, 55, nicknamed ‘El Cigarrón’, also predicts a 2-1 Spanish victory.

At the time of the warm-up in a modern sports complex with the walls whitewashed with whitewash, Christo Helguera doubts between his passion for Real Madrid and his love for the Portuguese star of the Spanish club, the five-time Golden Ball, Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Cristiano is the most important player, I want Spain to win 2-1, but with a Cristiano goal,” said the 24-year-old.

A single member goes against the current: José Bastos, young Portuguese referee of the team, who would not abandon the European champions for nothing.

“It will be a difficult match, Spain have a great team, but we also won the last European Championship, Portugal will win 2-1,” he assured without hesitation at age 18.

Ⓒ AFP – Francisco Leong – | Manuel Andrade, socialist mayor of Olivenza, in Badajoz, poses in his office with paintings of the town on the walls

For him, jokes between Spaniards and Portuguese in Olivenza are the reflection of the rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but be a supporter of the ‘Red’ or the “Selecçao”, “is always welcome in Olivenza!” , concludes the young Portuguese.

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