When you look at the astonishing view of the Douro River in Porto from the terrace of the ‘Guindalense Futebol Clube’ bar, it makes you wonder why this local bar has not become a pretentious gastro. Its trajectory tells the history of its neighbourhood and how local bars can contribute to community cohesion, happiness and benefit neighbourhoods in cities.
Paulo Soares is one of the board members of the ‘Guindalense Futebol Clube’. His ancestors were already part of this Association whose history dates back to the early 20s. A group of friends from the neighbourhood called ‘Os Guindais’ created a small sports group, which participated in Athletics, Fishing and Football.
The official history of the ‘Guindalense Futebol Clube’ began in 1976 when the founders took over the current facilities from a folkloric group in the community. Thanks to the financial effort of the founders and the collection of funds among other members they renovate the space making it a place to come together. The football teams used to train on the streets or at schools in the area. The club achieved several notable results.
‘We were more than a sports club’, says Paulo. The club was supporting community life in a valuable way and local people of all ages enjoyed hanging out at the bar.
However, due to the financial pressure in sports to achieve results, small football clubs were dying out around the city of Porto. The ‘Guindalense Futebol Clube’ decided to change direction. They started focusing on the social and cultural activities that were holding the community spirit together and opened the bar to all people in the city.
Thanks to the economic contribution of each member of the association and the profits from the bar, they are able to organise a significant amount of free events in the neighbourhood, where everybody in the city is welcome to attend.
‘We wanted to have a more active social role in the neighbourhood. We are more of a day centre than just a bar’ says Paulo Soares smiling. The bar is within walking distance of many homes in the neighbourhood. Together with Albina Veloso, Paulo works at the bar, occasionally some tourists come across the ‘Guindalense Futebol Clube’ bar and enjoy a drink on the terrace enjoying the amazing view. Paulo and Albina’s unquestioning friendliness is the reason why people who regularly visit a local bar feel embedded into their local community and happier.
Research from Oxford University published in 2016 showed people with a good pub close to them are “significantly” happier, have more friends and better life satisfaction. Loneliness and unhappiness threaten health and wellbeing in cities. Encouraging people to get out to the local bar and socialise may be a good place to start. It certainly works at the ‘Guindalense Futebol Clube’.
Every day free tea and cookies are offered at the bar to the most senior neighbours, who live alone, seeking to combat loneliness by meeting others. The bar provides a familiar atmosphere, enough to breed a sense of identity and connection. The ‘Guindalese Futebol Clube’ also organises seniors’ excursions, taking them for walks and assisting with their shopping, since the steep neighbourhood makes it difficult.
‘We have worked hard to keep this club alive, but it was the wish to keep our local community going that made it happen. Our local bar is very important for the neighbourhood. We are also open to the world. Everybody is welcome’, remarks Paulo.
Hopefully the future of the ‘Guindalese Futebol Clube’ will not become a private house or a glamorous club. It is the heartbeat of a community – if it dies, a little part of the soul of the ‘Os Guindais’ neighbourhood would vanish with it.