Hall of Heroes: Boa Morte

Boa Morte scoring against Chelsea. Credit: Youtube.com

“Luis, Luis Bo!  Luis, Luis Bo! Luis, Luis Bo! Luis Boa Morte!” A chant we know so well, sung for a player I will never forget.

I have chosen to add Luis Boa Morte to the Fulham Focus Hall of Heroes because he was…..is….. always will be my hero. The tag of “The beautiful game” is so fitting for the sport of football. Which individual has the given right to claim what beauty actually is? We all have our different outlook on what attracts us to someone’s beauty and football is no different.

Whilst some prefer the elegant touch, the pinpoint 50-yard pass, the tippy-tappy football or perhaps the captain who wears his heart on his sleeve crunching into tackles. I found the ability to combine lightning speed with swagger and end product very very beautiful indeed.

It’s hard to believe now but between the ages of 12-19, I was a very quick runner. I would watch Boa glide past players with ease thinking why can’t I do it that easily?! You can coach players as much as you like but you can’t teach pace and to be able to use natural speed to your maximum advantage is not easy. If it was then every fast player would have a field day and the fact is the ones that do are few and far between. Dare I say it, we’ve never had anyone since Boa who was even half as good at it.

He won our hearts when he was brought in on loan by Jean Tigana ahead of the famous 2000/01 campaign. Along with Louis Saha and Barry Hayles, they tore apart the old Division One. Too explosive, too strong, too clinical but to illustrate the whole blog….TOO FAST!!!  Perhaps the goal up at Huddersfield is overshadowed by the Sean Davis goal vs Blackburn a few days prior. But there is no hiding who scored the goal to get us to the promised land, the man who began the premier league journey the day he sealed our fate with the promotion. If that’s not heroic status, I don’t know what is?

Although some will say he was never the same player after that season, I strongly disagree. Yes at times he was a hothead who would do rash things and get frustrated with opponents hacking him down leading him to be very unpredictable. At times I’m not even sure Boa knew what he was going to do next… But this gave him an advantage over many wingers, not only was he too fast for most fullbacks, he could cut in, drift out, spinning them in circles and on many occasions causing them to lose their footing. Anyone who can put Marcel Desially on their backside twice at Stamford Bridge bursting into the box only to cut back and wrong foot the French man again before curling it into the far corner has a special talent. Even his celebrations were unpredictable as this particular goal proved taking his top off, turning it around the other way to show his name across his chest. Random but typical Boa.

I’ll never forget the goal at Loftus Road vs Blackburn where he picked the ball up on the edge of his own box, he took on a couple of players before doing a superb one-two with Collins John. A move so precise that thanks to Boa storming through like a train onto the return pass meant it took out the whole Blackburn team leaving Luis with half the pitch to himself and the goal at his mercy with Brad Friedel in a Boa/ back of the net sandwich and a swarm of 10 Blackburn players charging towards their keeper with no hope in hell of catching our Portuguese whippet. Again the celebration left a lot to be desired, what I can only describe as an impersonation of a dog with its leg up urinating against the corner flag and Collins John on his back like a jockey. Very weird, very random but very Boa.

The years after Loftus Road where we had lost Saha and Cookie had replaced Tigana were tough on the team. Coleman was working off of a very tight budget and at times worked miracles. This period for me relied heavily on Boa and Steed to be that spark and that’s exactly what they were. Never before had I seen Boa be such an important member of the first team and without the burden of the armband which we will touch on shortly, he seemed to step up to that senior role impeccably in a very average side.

One thing you could never hold against Luis and it’s something that really bugs me with other attackers is his fearlessness and desire to go forward. Always driving at the opposition sometimes too enthusiastically losing the ball or miss-controlling it but getting the bounce the right way off of the defender taking the ball back in his stride. You make your own luck in football if your attitude and approach fit the bill and Boa got the luck his confident approach deserved. No bit of luck was more satisfying than when we beat Chelsea 1v0 at the Cottage thanks to a ricochet off Boa’s shin as Paulo Ferreira went to clear the ball. Our only win against them across the road in the premier league came thanks to Boa, what a hero!

Another random celebration I have to mention is when we played Charlton at the Valley on the final day of the 2002/03 season. We won 1v0 and at the end of the game, all of the players threw their tops into the crowd. But not Boa, he went one better throwing his Socks, shin pads and shorts too running off down the tunnel in his pants. Random but nothing surprises me with Boa.

It amazed me for so long that it never worked out for him at Arsenal or Southampton with all that ability. After us, he never won over the hearts of West Ham fans either. In truth, we sold him at the perfect time as he went into decline when given the burden of responsibility as captain. A wonderful player but he looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and as already mentioned was so unpredictable that he was never going to adapt to someone capable of leading by example. In the end, leaving when he did, saved his legacy and bond with the fans. A legacy that saw him make 250 appearances scoring 54 goals. An appearance record only beaten by Brede Hangeland if you go as far back as the great Simon Morgan. A goal return in the same period only beaten by Barry Hayles, Louis Saha and Clint Dempsey. It’s fair to say Boa was a successful signing by Fulham Football Club and a character fitting to the club.

I suppose clubs like Arsenal, Southampton and West Ham didn’t get Boa Morte. He was an unusual but loveable player that you simply had to understand to appreciate. No different to us as a club, some people don’t understand the big fuss with the Cottage or why neutrals like us. But if you DO get Fulham, you understand just how special our club is and we have that in common with Luis.

I suppose all fans hold onto the love for their first hero. No matter who comes along they remain loyal to that first player who made them get hooked on the club. I will remain the same for the rest of my days but one day I hope I’m fortunate enough to witness a player who was everything Boa was to me…..

Fast… Original… Fun!