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date: 15 January 2021

Football in Lusophone Africalocked

  • Nuno DomingosNuno DomingosInstitute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon

Summary

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the game of football has spread across the territories of the Portuguese colonial empire in Africa—Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe—quickly becoming part of the daily life of main colonial cities. It was introduced by Portuguese settlers and by individuals of other nationalities; in particular, members of the English business diaspora. Religious missions and schools as well as migrant individuals from trade and labor networks were all agents in the expansion of the game which, since the first decades of the century, has become integrated into the leisure practices of different imperial territories through the formation of clubs, associations, and tournaments. Sports associations were the most mobilizing form of its integration in the Portuguese colonial empire. This network became more extensive in colonies that were significantly urbanized, more populated, had more dynamic economies, and that had more settlers, who increasingly became fans of the game and followed competitions in the newspapers and on the radio. The institutionalization of the game incorporated the discriminatory structure of the Portuguese colonial system. The logic behind official sports policies created by the Estado Novo regime (1933–1974), which until the early 1960s did not include natives (indígenas), was thus applied. And yet, Africans soon took over the game, creating their own clubs and competitions. Resistance to Portuguese colonialism forced political changes, which resulted in a war fought on three different fronts, but also in a gradual abandonment of official policies of racial discrimination. In the colonial football sphere, this opening, combined with the development of a professional market, led to the movement of African players first to colonial clubs, and then to metropolitan clubs, and even to the national team. The fame and talent of these players, especially Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, ultimately helped in disseminating official government propaganda of a multiracial empire.

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