We are fortunate to live in an age where the heroic talents who grace the many lands that pay homage to football will be – and have been – preserved by the pioneering digital era we currently occupy, enabling generations of fans to immerse themselves in the history of a sport that’s depth of narrative and legend run deeper than any other.
A century from now, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will not only be discussed with passionate fervor, but most likely, they will also be watched. They operate against a backdrop where every action is filmed, recorded, analysed, distributed, sold, pirated, tweeted, emailed and vined.
Sadly, the stories of some legends came too soon before the age of film, their achievements slowly ebbing away, no longer able to be recalled from the dusty recesses of the mind.
Perhaps somewhere there stands a building, etched in smog, hidden but to those who know. A place of respite and remembrance for the once mighty threads of football folklore. Imagine Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Cemetery for Forgotten Books, ceiling-high shelves, stacked with reports, footage and penned papers of note.
If ever a place exists, then Sporting Club de Portugal’s quintet forward line of the 1940s, Os Cinco Violinos, should rest firmly in the bosom of football’s sanctuary.
Fernando Peyroteo, Jesus Corriea, Albano Pereira, Manuel Vasques and Jose Travassos, collectively known as the Five Violins, would provide Sporting Club with an almost uninterrupted period of domestic success during their time at the Estádio de José Alvalade. And yet, despite their collective and individual feats, they appear cherished only by the fans of this unique Lisbon club.
“We want this club to be a great club, as great as the greatest in Europe.: The words of the Sporting Club’s founder, José Alvalade, rang heavy and true for the early years of the clubs history and for a while it seemed they would stand alongside the greats of Europe for many years to come, for at the helm of Sporting CP’s attack stood a player who would come to define the quintet and go on to set records few will ever match.
Fernando Peyroteo’s route to the Iberian peninsula began in Humpata, south-west Angola, where owing much to Portugal’s spice trade that had been forged by sea merchants such as Vasco da Gama, a number of Portuguese colonies began to develop along the coasts of Africa, thus paving a pathway for players such as Peyroteo and Eusébio to display their immense talent on the European stage.
The striker would leave his hometown team of Sporting Luanda Club at the tender age of 19 to join Sporting CP in 1937, under the tutelage of then coach József Szabó (who, oddly, would finish his managerial career as national coach of Angola).
Peyroteo was a beast of a man, whose barrelled chest and broad shoulders could have suited the rugby origins of the now famous white and green hoops that adorned the shirts. Hungarian coach, Szabó, saw a physical mass who was keen to learn and began shaping the young Angolan into the spearhead of Sporting’s attack. Szabo worked with Peyroteo with greater focus being placed on improving the forward’s fitness, implementing a training plan at a time when Portuguese footballers were not all at a professional level.
Many wondered what the Hungarian saw in this raw talent from the African continent that caused him to set his mind to developing a training regime that bore hallmarks of a modern day approach to coaching. Operating in a national league that was only just progressing towards professionalism, Szabó’s coaching techniques appear visionary in his scope to breakdown and develop the individual aspects of a footballers performance, and would be worthy of further research.
The age of professionalism casts a questionable eye over Peyroteo’s achievements during his career at Sporting, but a man can only be judged in the circumstances he finds himself in and so must receive due praise all the same when achievements of merit are attained.
Fernando Peyroteo scored 331 goals in 187 matches; his 1.68 goals to game ratio is better than any player ever. Better than Pelé, Eusébio, Müller, Ronaldo, all of them. His entire career is a perpetual ‘Best of’ and if YouTube had been around in the mid-1940s, then you can only imagine a beautiful array of goals, spliced impeccably with some fitting classical overture reaching an epic number of hits.
The naturalised Portuguese forward would be the focal point of so many moments of utter brilliance that to capture a few, gives a glimpse of the man’s unquenchable thirst for goals. A 14-0 decimation of Leca in February 1942 led to Peyroteo weighing in with an unprecedented nine goals. In his final season, the forward scored eight goals as Los Leões swept aside Boavista in the 1948-49 season.
He also tormented Academia, who were put to the sword by the forward to the tune of five goals in 25 minutes. His record of 52 hat-tricks ranks third behind Gerd Müller and Pelé.
He would represent the Lisbon XI on 15 occasions, tallying 40 goals, with an eight-goal haul against Porto in 1940 being the pick of a most bountiful bunch.
And if the stamp of any great player is through their derby day performances, then Peyroteo has that one well and truly sewn up in climactic fashion worthy of remembering. As the 1948 season drew to a close, Sporting needed to defeat city rivals Benfica by three clear goals in order to be crowned champions. Step forward the aptly named ‘Goal Machine’, groggy from flu and hay fever-like symptoms that had left him bed ridden, unable to train. Four goals later, Sporting were champions with Peyroteo scoring all of them.
These magnificent goal-scoring feats give an indication of a man playing far beyond the level of his competitors, with his standout season, perhaps, coming in 1946-47 when Sporting (in a 14 team league) scored 123 goals in 26 matches, averaging 4.7 goals per game, with Peyroteo scoring 43 in a 19 match campaign at an average of 2.2 goals per game.
His final goal tally, inclusive of all Sporting’s matches, stands at 393 games played and 635 goals scored, with an average of 1.62 goals per game.
Peyroteo’s short career, which would end at 31, deprived the eyes of Europe the opportunity to feast upon the wondrous talents of a truly unique goal scorer, and though footage of his performances is scarce, the legend of Fernando Peyroteo lives on.
The unique nature of Sporting Club de Portugal multi-faceted involvement in sports lends itself perfectly to the next member of the Five Violins, António Jesus Correia.
Known as Dois Amores, Correia had two loves in his life. Through his exploits in one, he would win 11 titles in his career, scoring 156 goals in 208 games, and currently stands in eighth in the Portuguese all-time goal scorers’ list. In the other, he would win eight national championships, and represent his country 128 times whilst winning six World Cup titles throughout the 1940s and ’50s.
The sport in which Correia would, controversially, choose over football at the age of 28, was roller hockey.
Born in Paço de Arcos, he would eventually be spotted by Sporting coach József Szabó, who lived nearby, whilst training with his local hockey club. Szabo saw the technical movement needed in roller hockey as an ideal template from which to develop a football athlete.
Correia would be immortalised for his single-handed destruction of Athletic Aviación (later to become Atlético Madrid) when he would score all six in a 6-3 thriller in Madrid.
One action of note that became synonymous with Correia’s play would be his pirouettes on the ball when in central position, enabling him to switch play from one side to the other. Perhaps the vision and quick movements needed in roller hockey provided him with a unique view of the football pitch.
The decision for Correia’s career to follow the pathway of hockey is believed to have been made from a government sporting perspective, and can be perfectly justified in the tremendous success he achieved with the national roller hockey team. Yet fans will always be left wondering if his choice was to remain at Sporting Club, what could have been.
Albano Narciso Periera was a young man with difficult boots to fill. A left sided attacker, who arrived fresh-faced from Seixal in 1943, he had the task of taking over from João Cruz, a club legend who had been part of the 1938 team who won Sporting’s first Portuguese championship.
If records are anything to go by, Albano made the position his own and brought an individual brilliance that would be loved by the Sporting faithful as a player who would delight the crowds with his nutmegging of opponents and an impressive return of goals and assists. Much was made of his control, dribbling ability as he would hug the touchline before springing to life with the ball at his feet.
Despite his role to feed the ball to Peyroteo, Albano’s ability enabled him to amass a goal tally of 153 league goals in 335 appearances, leaving him currently ninth in Portugal’s all-time top scorer records. A career at Sporting rewarded him with eight league titles, four Portuguese Cups and two Lisbon championships. A player who remained at the club until he was 36, Albano epitomised the childlike love for the game which resides in us all.
The final two players who make up this illustrious quintet personify the strength of a friendship borne out of sporting competition, for the careers of José Travassos and Manuel Vasques began at Sporting in 1943 on the same day, and, as their journey drew to a close, both players would lace up their boots for the very last time and announce their retirement on 7 September 1959.
Manuel Vasques Soerio was as close to football royalty in 1940s Lisbon as you could get, with his uncle Manuel Vasques already an established Sporting great, scoring heavily throughout the 1930s. Vasques Jnr, had initially been tempted by the interests of Benfica only to heed the words of his uncle, who insisted on having any contract deals being run by him before a decision could be made. Thankfully, swayed by the words of his football idol, Vasques decided that Sporting was the club for him.
It appears that Vasques operated in a loosely framed number 10 role, which ties in with the nickname Malhoa given to him by coach Tavares da Silva, after the Portuguese painter of the late 19th century; it is clear from reports that Vasques provided the foil for the other four players to operate, and saw the football pitch as a veritable blank canvass, awaiting his brushstrokes.
A player capable of scoring in all manner of ways, Vasques ranks third in the goalscoring charts of Portugal with a monumental 225 goals in 349 games.
José Travassos is widely considered one of the greatest Portuguese players of all-time, and if Vasques was the artist of the team, then Travassos was the engine. His signing for Sporting CP is shrouded in mystery as there exist several reports that cite kidnapping, FC Porto, being hid in Torres Verda, involvement of the military, as factors that disrupted his eventual move to the Estádio de Alvalade.
The symbolic importance of Travassos’ career lay in his recognition on a national stage as much as his exploits for Sporting. Travassos would become the first Portuguese player to be selected in a FIFA team XI in a friendly against England in 1955, in which the combined XI ran out 4-1 winners.
His career at Sporting mirrored that of his four compatriots, with a hat-trick against Benfica during a 6-1 win in his maiden season, endearing him to the fans immediately. Known to be of smaller stature, Travassos had amazing acceleration from his earlier days as a sprinter and he is acknowledged as operating in the interior left position of Sporting’s W-M formation, possessing the intelligence needed to dictate the pace of the game.
Ze of Europe left Sporting after 13 years, amassing 122 goals in the process, eight Portuguese leagues and two Portuguese Cups, and it is his windmill kick against FC Porto that has been immortalised in the film O Leão Da Estrela by Arthur Duarte.
A befitting and crowning glory of the Five Violins is perhaps one bestowed upon them collectively by the very club they gave so much to, for it is a time honoured tradition that achievements of great merit are recognised by the Stromp Award, named after the great Francisco Stromp (who is worthy of an article, himself) of the 1930s, and for Sporting to recognise the quintet in this manner is a testament to their contribution to football.
With the tumultuous onslaught of football we are forced to consume nowadays, it is easy to forget and even easier to dismiss the ways of old in favour of the new, and yet one hopes somewhere, small embers of intrigue are beginning to form in the inner sanctum of the mind and perhaps those wonderful players and teams of years gone by will given the appreciation they are worthy of.
By Joe H. Harman. Follow @ginolasleftfoot