HomeBlogDavid Simão: “Portugal performs miracles with its limited resources”
Photo credits: Arouca FC

David Simão: “Portugal performs miracles with its limited resources”

Photo credits: FC Arouca


Currently playing for FC Arouca, the experienced Portuguese midfielder David Simão has represented clubs such as SL Benfica, AEK, Royal Antwerp FC, CSKA Sofia, Hapoel Beer Sheva, and Boavista FC throughout his career. In this first and exclusive interview after his return to the pitch, the 31-year-old player analyzes his adventures in peripheral championships and reflects on the Portuguese football state-of-the-art.

David Simão has experienced peripheral championships, such as the Belgian, Greek, Bulgarian and Israeli. The financial issue is, in his opinion, the primary factor contributing to the immigration of Portuguese athletes. “Unfortunately, in Portugal, you cannot compete with these countries. Before being professional players, we are people with responsibilities and families. Soon, I believe that Portugal will make a qualitative leap in terms of payments with the centralization of television rights. That will bring greater quality to the competition and make many Portuguese players stay. They would rather lose a little money and play in the Portuguese league than in smaller leagues. In my case, I also liked to experience other realities, discover new cultures and new ways of playing. All the championships I went through had dissimilar particularities”, he said.

His first experience abroad came after consolidating his status as a first-division player. The destination was CSKA Sofia, a historic club in Bulgaria, which attracted him financially and offered him the possibility to test another competitive reality. “It was a question of opportunity. For the first time, I was a free agent. I had already played many matches in the first division, knew the Portuguese championship well, and wanted to try it out. Financially, I made a good leap when I went to Bulgaria. The Bulgarian championship has nothing to do with the Portuguese in terms of quality, but we are talking about one of the best teams in the country. CSKA Sofia is the most renowned club historically, but now is the second greatest team in Bulgaria, because Ludogorets Razgrad is dominating. I agreed to go there because I was signing for a big club, but the league is probably the weakest I participated in”.

After initiating the 2017-2018 season at CSKA Sofia, he returned to his home country and joined Boavista FC, performing the best season of his entire career. The central midfielder felt he could move to a higher-level club immediately following his first season, but that transfer did not occur. “For one reason or another, things did not happen. Boavista FC supporters are peculiar. They are fanatics and very passionate about the club. They got the idea that I had almost forced my way out, which is not true. During the second season [2018-2019], I continued to play well and give everything on the pitch, which is what I always do, although sometimes my body language may not show it. It turned out to be a disappointment not to leave at the end of the first year, but not because I was not okay at Boavista FC. It is a big club, which has gone through difficulties and is still trying to get back to its usual level.

We want, above all, better conditions for our families, because we have a short career. In football, two plus two is not four. There are many contingencies that we sometimes do not understand.

“I always want the best for my life and my career. That is how I educate my children: without going over anyone and respecting everyone, always desiring more in life. Sometimes, journalists use incomplete sentences, which expose us a little, and they forget we will suffer from that. People got the wrong idea by an interview and words taken out of context. So, a word to clarify Boavista FC fans: I never forced the leaving, but when lifetime opportunities come to us, I have to think about the three children I have at home, my wife, parents, and brothers. In Portugal, contrary to what people might think, you cannot get rich and stop working after hanging up your boots. Except for SL Benfica, FC Porto, and Sporting CP, the rest of the players earn a little above the average in Portugal in other professions”.

In the middle of his second season with Boavista FC, David ended up joining Royal Antwerp FC. Despite the short adventure, the competitive model of the Jupiler Pro League and its qualitative level impressed him positively. “I arrived close to the final phase of the league, which gathered the six most renowned teams in Belgium: Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Standard Liège, Genk, Gent, and Royal Antwerp FC. The stadiums are always full of people. Royal Antwerp FC fans are extremely loyal. There was an incredible atmosphere in every game, whether on a Monday, Wednesday, or even national holidays. It is perhaps a more balanced league than the Portuguese one. The football there is intense and with a lot of quality. I enjoyed being there, and the league protects players a lot contractually”.

In 2019, he accepted a proposal from AEK, one of the most prominent clubs in Greece, where he played merely seven matches and which proved to be an absolute disappointment. “It is a big club in theory, but at the organizational level, it falls short. In the very few games I have had, possibly I did not perform satisfactorily, but I think it is completely normal when you are training apart and suddenly are called to play. I have not played for three or four months, and suddenly I play two matches because there was no one else. I always felt a lot of antibodies on the management side. The truth is that AEK is a big and historical club. That was what made me go there. At that time, luckily, I had some other options. Now I am feeling regretful, but at that period I thought it was the best option. I never had real opportunities at the club”.

To regain his competitive rhythm, David joined Hapoel Beer Sheva on loan, met some compatriots, and won the Israel State Cup. “I went to Israel because I needed to play. It was a club that had already shown interest in me a few times, and it turned out to be a good experience. It is a unique culture. I had two Portuguese footballers who helped me a lot – Josué and Miguel Vítor – and I was well welcomed. They are very respectful, which was not the reality I had in Greece, and correct”.

The the 31-year-old player reinforces that it is mainly the financial constraints that prevent Portugal from competing with the big five European football leagues, despite recognizing the substantial scouting credentials of the clubs.

Players do not choose the Premier League because the stadiums are more beautiful; it is because any club pays well. The budgets of League One teams are higher than those of the first division here. I usually say that Portugal performs miracles with its limited resources.

“The clubs always have top-quality players and do an incredible scouting job. There are always a lot of clubs and people watching the games, but not in person, because that, unfortunately, is also a big gap in our championship. There are few people in the stadiums. Only the three biggest clubs – SL Benfica, FC Porto, and Sporting CP – have their stadiums full of fans. All those details make the difference for Portuguese football to get closer to the big five”.

Recently, David signed for FC Arouca and aims to help stabilize the club at the highest level of Portuguese football. “I want to give a special acknowledgment to SG Sacavenense, where I managed to train and be closer to my physical condition, and to the players who were fantastic in supporting me. I feel better now than when I was here a few years ago: more capable and prepared. People know me, and I know them well. I know their ambition and how much people work to maintain the club at this level. I decided to accept the proposal to help the club take safe steps to cement its position in the first division”, he concluded.


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