Mozambique has rich legacy
MOZAMBIQUE might be wallowing outside of the top 100 in the Fifa rankings but South Africa's neighbours have a rich legacy of football and produced some of Africa's greatest talents.
The pity is, the glory days were all pre-independence. Since 1975, the land of Eusebio, Mario Coluna and Matateu has failed to live up to expectation with just three trips to the Africa Cup of Nations finals and no other international achievements.
But there can be no doubting the impact Mozambique has made on the African game.
Coluna was the first black man to captain a club in the European Cup final when Benfica lost in 1968 to Manchester United. That was his fifth final after featuring in winning teams in 1961 and 1962 and then on the losing side in 1963 and 1965.
His teammates included Eusebio, who would go on to be the best player at the 1966 World Cup in England. His goals for Portugal are still the stuff of legend and were it not for the colonial overtones he would have every right to be called the best African footballer ever.
Eusebio, who played exhibition games in SA in the 1970s and 1980s, continues to live in Lisbon and work as an ambassador for Benfica, but Coluna, nicknamed "O Monstro Sagrado" (the sacred monster), returned home after the revolution to coach the Mozambican national team and later become football federation president.
Goalkeeper Costa Pereira was another Mozambican in the dominant Benfica side of the 1960s, also winning two European Cup titles.
Matateu played for Portugal 27 times, including a match against the old whites-only Springbok side in Lisbon in 1953. He would be the only black player they ever went up against when apartheid was deeply entrenched.
The forward is still regarded as thebest-ever player for Lisbon's other club, Belenenses, and a giant photo of him hangs in the main reception oftheir stadium.
Hilario was an icon at Sporting Lisbon and won 39 caps with Portugal. After retiring he was the first African to coach a European club, taking charge of Sporting Braga in 1979. Roger de Sa's father, Octavio, was Maputo-born and won the Portuguese title with Sporting in 1958.
Carlos Queiroz was never a professional player but coached Portugal to the World Youth Championship title and later worked twice as their national coach, as well as taking charge of Bafana Bafana. He is from Nampula in the north of Mozambique and still visits there frequently.
In recent years the top Mozambican talent has ended up in South Africa rather than Portugal. Tico-Tico Bucuane scored more than 100 goals in the Premier Soccer League and Elias Pelembe was a R5-million signing by Mamelodi Sundowns.