Picture courtesy of @Pedge21
Where Is Benfica’s Steven Vitória?
The weekly ongoing joke during the Benfica Podcast is the whereabouts of Toronto born defender Steven Vitória. We (The Benfica Nation) are concerned about the whereabouts of the 26-year-old centre back and I have taken it upon myself to find out his whereabouts.
Steven Vitória was born on January 11, 1987 in Toronto, Canada. Steven began playing at a young age and showed great talent and had a height advantage as he is 6’5″ by age 18 he was scouted by FC Porto while playing for the Woodbridge (Jersey Shore outside of Toronto) Strikers. His time at FC Porto consisted of loans to such lower division teams as Tourizense, Olhanese, and Sporting Colvilhã. He eventually left FC Porto after four seasons and signed to lower division side Estoril Praia where he became a breakthrough player. During the 2012/13 season Vitória scored 11 goals helping the Marco Silva side gain a berth in the UEFA Europa League. Although, 8 of those goals were PK’s, Vitória began getting noticed and talked about throughout the league. After an impressive performance during a league game in May of 2012 when Estoril tied Benfica at the Luz contributing to Benfica’s disappointing 2nd place finish, Benfica signed Vitória on June 16, 2014 to a four-year contract.
It was reported in the summer that Vitória was spotted at an airport in Philadelphia. Although he reported to training camp and passed all medical exams, Steven has not trained with the team or appeared in a Benfica jersey since the end of last season. Although a possibility, No injuries have been reported. Was there a fall out with Benfica coach Jorge Jesus? Perhaps, but if Nélson Oliveira can be forgiven for the criticism him and his dad made last season about JJ’s lack of minutes for Portuguese born players, then Steven should also be forgiven.
In an episode aired last season of Alta Fidelidade (for some reason is no longer available), Vitória mentioned to the host that he was expecting a child. Perhaps, Steven took some time off to focus on parenthood and being a great father and husband?
The reality of the situation is at the moment Steven’s role at Benfica is minimal. Even if he is available to play he will more than likely get an occasional start on the B team at best. Benfica have the likes of Lisandro, Jardel, and César to accompany Luisão in the centre back role. Although, we often question the talent of César and notice the crucial mistakes Jardel makes on a weekly basis, if JJ has not given Vitória a chance by now he never well.
Shortly after his arrival at SL Benfica, I wrote an article comparing Vitória to former Benfica star Fernando Aguiar. What fascinated me about Aguiar (Portuguese born) was his commitment to playing for the Canadian National Team. This is something in which Vitoria (and most Luso Canadians) have failed to do and that is recognize that there is a place to help build this National Team. It is true that Canada did neglect Vitória for many years and by the time they were interested in calling him up he was already a player at FC Porto and decided to use his dual citizenship and wait for a call up to the Seleção. Besides the 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup held in Canada, Vitória has failed to represent the call ups. Unfortunately, he may never get that call up as he is currently receiving zero playing time. Even if JJ was playing Vitoria, would he be an option over Pepe, Fonte, Carvalho, Neto, Alves or any other Portuguese CB star? The answer quite simply is no.
On a personal note my 16-year-old nephew plays with a Benfica jersey here in Toronto. He represents the Casa Do Benfica in Toronto. If for some reason he does end up playing pro he has already made his decision that he will take his chances and wait for a chance to be called up by The Seleção. As someone who is Canadian born this breaks my heart, why would anyone not want to represent their country in a professional level? The one answer I always get is that it is either related to politics and that it’s not attractive to play for Team Canada but playing elsewhere is fine. I point my finger to not only Steven Vitória, but to Jonathon De Guzman, Junior Hoilett, Daniel Fernandes, Owen Hargreaves, and to some degree Asmir Begovic (played for Canada Juniors) and Bryan Cristante (Toronto born Father)
Steven Vitoria’s days at Benfica may be over. Although his dad is rumored to be a loyal Benfiquista, but he may find himself broken-hearted as his son will most likely end up elsewhere. On the bright side there are many other red jerseys to wear in Portugal outside of the big 3 to brighten up his career. SC Braga, SC Olhanese, and Gil Vicente are only a few. Perhaps Vitoria can take his talent across the Atlantic and like his fellow Benfica mates Yannick Djálo, Estrela, and Rafael Ramos contribute to building a prosperous league which continues to flourish and increase in popularity annually the MLS. Toronto FC will be rebuilding for a ninth season, I’m just saying
Follow Neil on Twiter @FernandesNeil