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The Post-Colonial relationship between Portugal and Mozambique


On the 10th of July 2016, Portugal were crowned victors over France in the final of the
European footballing championships (EURO 2016) for the first time in their history.
Portugals only goal in the final, coming in the second half of extra-time, was scored by
Eder, a player born in a former colonial possession: Guinea-Bissau. However, Eder was not
the only former colonial link in the final. Contested between two former colonisers, 37% of
the two squads consisted of players with linkages to each countrys former colonial
possessions (Aarons, 2017). Held (1999) provides a description of globalisation as a
widespread perception that the world is rapidly being moulded into a shared social space
by economic and technological forces and that developments in one region of the world can
have profound consequences for the life chances of individuals or communities on the other
side of the globe. Drawing on Held (1999), the essay examines the footballing relationship
between Portugal and one of its former colonial possessions, Mozambique, exploring how
developments in one region of the world (Portugal) can have profound consequences on
individuals on the other side of the globe (Mozambique). Firstly, the relationship is explored
during the colonial period, detailing Portugals cultural influence over Mozambican
traditions and noting the use of cultural technologies, such as football, to sustain their
colonial power. Following, post-independence Mozambique is examined, highlighting their
poor relationship with Portugal and resulting weak economic and footballing infrastructure
caused by years of civil war. Lastly, the essay uses dependent underdevelopment theory
as a theoretical framework to offer critical analysis on the post-independence sporting
relationship between Mozambique and Portugal, placing it within the wider context of
African football migratory patterns/exploitation between European and African teams.

Pre-independence sporting relationship

In 1885, a conference held in Berlin, between a number of European superpowers, was

scheduled with the intention of regulating the European colonisation of Africa. During the
conference, Portugal were given Mozambique, along with Angola and Guinea-Bissau,
disregarding any form of African governance and allowing Portugal to take rule (Armstrong,
2008). Mozambiques sporting organisations developed under Portuguese colonial rule with
the practice of modern sports only becoming legal in 1906 (Domingos, 2007). However, 1931
provided the first records regarding the implementation of systemised sport in Mozambique.
A Portuguese captain named Ismael Mrio Jorge produced a report to the Paris Colonial
Congress detailing the separation of physical education and sports. The report centred
on the idea of sustained colonial power, ensuring the focus on physical education would
lead to a greater number of athletes to compete for the colonial state (Portugal) (Domingos,
2007). Introduced to them by the Portuguese, football quickly became the favoured sport
of many Mozambicans, with most cities across the country naturally adopting a love for it.
However, large cities such as Loureno Marques were forced to accept the sport through
Catholic missionary schools (Darby, 2007a) ensuring every child attempted the sport,
demonstrating their (future) potential to the colony. Football was used a tool to
continuously reinforce cultural hegemony over Mozambique, and many aspects of
Portuguese culture were often forced upon many of the locals. Football teams were
encouraged to affiliate themselves with prominent Portuguese football clubs (i.e. Sporting
Loureno Marques), and the locals often developed an affinity towards the Portuguese club
instead. Additionally, Portuguese teams would tour around Mozambique frequently and
radio broadcasts of Portuguese football was preferred (Darby, 2007a). Many of these
practices possessed a significance beyond football, serving to transmit a vehicle of ideas,
beliefs, values and conventions that contributed to consolidate the imperial mission
(Domingos, 2007, p.480). Dirks (Cited in Domingos, 2007) shares the same sentiment stating
that colonialism was made possible, and then sustained and strengthened, as much by
cultural technologies of rule as it was by the more obvious and brutal modes of conquest
that first established power on foreign shores.

The late 1940s and 1950s saw early forms of modern day academies in Mozambique.
Although the Portuguese possessed no direct ownership over many of the Mozambican
football teams, clubs such as SL Benfica and Sporting Lisbon would often send scouts to
permanently live in Mozambique with the job of sending over promising footballers
(Armstrong, 2008). The success of Lucas Figuereido Matetu, a Mozambique-born footballer
who finished top scorer in the Portuguese league in 1953 and 1955, created a significant
impact on the recruitment of African footballers. Portuguese clubs started sending more
scouts to Mozambique, beginning to understand the potential of African recruits. The
domestic game was greatly affected by African footballers as Benficas first European Cup
(Champions League) winning team in 1961 consisted of 4 African born players. Furthermore,
the international team benefited from African born recruits too. Portuguese dictator
Antnio de Oliveira Salazar introduced the indigenous peoples rule which gifted
assimilated nationality to Mozambicans who were considered exceptional players (Darby,
2007a). Those who possessed enough talent to be exported to Portugal were often
naturalised and called up to the national team.
Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, known universally as Eusebio, is considered one of Portugals
greatest ever players. Born in Mozambique, Eusebio was scouted from a young age by Benfica
and was naturalised soon after he signed in 1961. Not only did Eusebio lead Benfica to two
European Cup wins, he also carried Portugal to a 3rd place finish at the 1966 World Cup,
finishing top scorer of the competition with 9 goals. This process of naturalisation can be
considered as another tool to reinforce the Portuguese cultural hegemony. Darby (2007a,
p.502) describes this process of naturalisation as the enrichment of the developed world
at the expense or impoverishment of the developing world. The regular radio broadcasts
of Portuguese football allowed many Mozambicans to follow Eusebios successful career with
immense pride. However, adopting the thinking of Klein (1991), Darby (2007a) argues the
success that Eusebio received (as well as other Mozambican-born players) after assimilating
Portuguese nationality contributed to a belief among Mozambicans that life and culture
were better in Portugal. Many believed that in order to become a successful footballer, one
needed to become a Portuguese citizen leaving the Mozambican domestic game heavily
under developed. The exportation of gifted Mozambican individuals continued until the
1970s serving to continuously under develop Mozambican football.

Post-independence relationship

Following a decade of colonial war, Mozambique eventually gained independence in 1975.

The newly installed Marxist, FRELIMO (The Liberation Front of Mozambique) government
took steps to de-Europeanise the sport, cutting off various links with Portugal. The FRELIMO
government demanded all Mozambican football teams drop any Portuguese affiliation from
their name. Additionally, Portuguese teams were no longer welcomed to Mozambique and
most importantly, in an effort to stop the export of their most talented footballers, a ban
was placed prohibiting local players from leaving the country (Darby, 2007a). However,
Mozambique found itself involved in a civil war 2 years after it gained independence. The
civil war demolished any hope of developing a professional league due to sabotage from
neighbouring states, economic collapse, broader economic mismanagement and massive
displacement of indigenous peoples (Darby, 2007a, p.500). As a result, Mozambiques weak
political and economic infrastructure stunted the development of their domestic game;
causing many footballers to flee the country as a playing career brought minimal financial
reward or stability.

The ban preventing local players from leaving the country was lifted in 1987, as the FRELIMO
government saw little results from the Mozambique international team during the years.
The civil war began to come an end in the late 1980s, as talks between the FRELIMO
government and opposing RENAMO movement (Mozambique Resistance Movement) were
held allowing Mozambique to become a multi-party state (Darby, 2007a). The lift on the ban
allowed Portugal to reinstate its historical connection with Mozambique. Many teams
assumed their previous Portuguese-affiliated names and Portuguese clubs began sending
scouts to watch local teams again. The end of the civil war left Mozambique in an
economically weak position, allowing Portugal to take advantage of the newly lifted ban.
Portuguese footballs European success in the late 1980s coupled with Mozambiques weak
economic infrastructure led to a high migration of Mozambicans to Portugal. Portuguese
football clubs utilised their financially stronger position to dictate the terms in which they
bought Mozambican footballers. Players who were shown even a slight interest would put
pressure on their team to sell, and the precarious conditions of Mozambique football forced
many of the teams to sell players at a fraction of their value (Armstrong, 2008). Clubs found
themselves in a position of dependent trading [facilitating] the de-skilling and
underdevelopment of African football on terms and conditions set by recruiting Portuguese
clubs (Darby, 2007a, p.504).

The relationship between Mozambique and Portugal provided a similar narrative among
other African and European football connections. Darby et al. (2007), as well as Darby
(2007b), Poli (2006, 2010), Schokkaert (2014), Bale (2004) and Littlewood et al. (2011) all
provide pieces of literature examining the exploitive relationship between European and
African football clubs, and the reasons for player migrations. The consensus amongst authors
relates to the poor economic conditions, and subsequent weak footballing infrastructure, of
many African countries, contributing as push factors (Darby and Solberg, 2009). Any serious
footballers living in one of these African countries understands the need to travel abroad to
make a living from the sport (Der Meij, 2017; Esson, 2015a), a notable push factor
applicable to many Mozambicans. As of 2007, 69 percent of African footballers plying their
trade in the Portuguese leagues hailed from one of its former colonies. And although there
are relatively few Mozambicans playing professionally in Europe, those that do are based
exclusively in Portugal (Darby, 2007b, p.445). It is difficult to predict the current
numbers/ratio of former colonial links in Portugals domestic league but comparing
Portugals 2006 World Cup squad (2 former colonial linkages) and EURO 2016 squad (7 former
colonial linkages) shows a dramatic increase that could be applicable to the domestic
league. Conversely, the blame should not be solely put on Portugal. Those who possess
enough talent and skill to be rewarded with a move abroad often choose a familiar cultural
environment. Part of why so many Mozambicans (and other former colonies for that matter)
still decide to migrate to Portugal can be down to the fewer linguistic and cultural barriers,
established during Portugals colonial rule (Darby, 2007a). However, this constant migration
of Mozambican footballers almost exclusively to Portugal still serves to under develop their
domestic game.


The author adopts a hyper-globalist pessimist perspective in reference to the neo-colonial

exploitation of Portugals former colonial possessions. Darby (2012, p.265), who shares the
same perspective, views migration as an extractive process characterised by the
haemorrhaging of valuable resources abroad, underdevelopment, a deepening of poverty
and global inequality, and damaging sociocultural impacts in sending societies. Franks
theory of dependent underdevelopment (1969) will be used as a theoretical framework to,
not only critique the post-colonial relationship between Portugal and Mozambique, but place
it within the wider context of African football migratory patterns/exploitation between
European and African teams. Andre Gunder Franks theory of dependent under
development centres around the idea that the core, industrialised western nations utilise
their economic power to control the global economic system by dictating and exploiting the
way in which trade is conducted. As a result, they develop at the expense of those on the
outskirts of the global economy, thriving from the peripherys underdevelopment. Frank
states that core countries (continue to) develop by appropriating raw materials from those
on the periphery. Therefore, development in one area is a direct result of
underdevelopment in another (Frank, 1969). Here, the labels of core (Portugal) and
periphery (Mozambique) can very much be applied to this case study.

Mozambiques post-ban period has demonstrated how Portugal utilise their former colonial
linkages as a neo-colonial resource. The exploitation of the periphery has resulted in the
strengthening of Portuguese teams in European competitions (development) and the
underdevelopment of both domestic and international football in Mozambique. Although
Portugal do not personally benefit from any Mozambican migrants/linkages on their national
team, since the turn of the new millennium, Mozambique have since qualified for the African
Cup of Nations once (and zero for World Cups); having qualified three times during the
1990s alone. Those few Mozambicans that migrate to Portugal often choose to represent
the Portuguese national team rendering them ineligible to participate for Mozambique, thus
leaving them with lesser-skilled players instead. Moreover, Portuguese teams are notorious
for repeatedly finding cheap, unknown footballers from obscure countries (primarily from
Africa and South America) and providing them with the necessary training to turn into a
world class footballer. Most importantly, they often heavily profit from their future sales.
Portugals continued success at the expense of Mozambique serves to further the economic
gap between them, drawing links to broader imperialist and neo-imperialist economic
exploitation in that it involves the sourcing, refinement and export of raw materials, in this
case football talent, for consumption on the European market (Darby, 2007a, p.503). Sepp
Blatter, former president of FIFA, accused those who profit from the sale of African
footballers as neo-colonialists who dont give a damn about heritage and culture, but
engage in social and economic rape by robbing the developing world of its best players
(Darby et al., 2007, p.143).

To further understand Mozambiques underdevelopment, it is important to analyse FIFAs

approach to African football during the 20th century. FIFA adopted a very Eurocentric
approach to football up until the 1970s. Throughout the 50s and 60s, African countries
were often denied entry to the FIFA World Cup and requests for a confederation were
continuously rejected as Africa had not yet sufficiently organised themselves to merit a
say within world football (Darby, 2000a, p.42). The resulting effect forced many African
born players to travel abroad and adopt the nationalities of eligible nations, often making
use of their former colonial links in France, Belgium and Portugal (Schokkaert, 2014). Joao
Havelanges election as FIFA president in 1974 changed the way the African continent was
viewed by the world footballs governing body. However, decades of neglect had left
considerably less time for African football to develop in comparison to its European
counterpart. The commercialisation of European football, beginning in the late 1980s,
further extended the economic gap. In a period where African football was beginning to find
its feet, the creation of the Premier League and UEFA Champions League injected enormous
amounts of finances unmatched by African football. Revenue received from broadcasting
rights would continue to rise and the passing of the Bosman law in 1995 ensured more money
ended up in players and agents pockets (Poli, 2006). Europe became an increasingly
attractive prospect for African footballers as even the lowest paid players in Ligue 1 (French
first division) received significantly more than the highest paid in the African continent
(Darby at al., 2007, p145-6). Additionally, academies became ever more prominent as
European teams utilised their rise in finances to set up schools across Africa (Darby,
2000b), even going so far as to acquire African clubs with the intention of bypassing specific
regulations preventing the exploitive purchases of African footballers (Ajax Cape Town)
(Darby and Solberg, 2009). Mozambiques lift on the ban that prevented local players from
leaving country not only coincided with the increasing commercialisation of European
football, but happened during a time where Portuguese teams were the most dominant in
the continent. Portugal exploited their former colonial links by setting up academies and
sending an influx of scouts to Mozambique in an effort to attract cheap labour. Franks
(1969) theoretical framework views the establishment of academies in developing African
countries as contributing to the underdevelopment and impoverishment of the domestic
African game because the focus is on refining local talent for export to Europe, which
reduces the quality of the domestic football product available for consumption in Africa
(Darby, 2007b, p.449).

FIFAs Eurocentric approach to African football during the mid-20th century, coupled with
Portugals exploitive migratory practices once the player-ban was lifted certainly endured
lasting effects on Mozambican football. Ironically, Mozambique saw its most international
success shortly after the ban was lifted appearing in 3 African Cup of Nations during the
1990s. However, lifting the ban allowed the scouting of up and coming Mozambicans to be
naturalised into Portuguese culture and subsequently opt to represent the Portuguese
national team. Mozambique found themselves within a position of dependency, enabling the
underdevelopment of domestic football whereby the terms and conditions were set by the
recruiting Portuguese clubs. Franks theoretical framework captures the way in which
Portugals appropriation of Mozambiques football talent is viewed on a wider scale. Similar
to African migratory exploits in other countries (Darby, 2000a, 2000b, 2007b, 2012; Bale,
2004; Darby et al., 2007; Littlewood et al., 2011), European teams utilise their economic
power to dictate the terms to which African players are purchased. As a result, African
football is undervalued and underdeveloped as most are purchased with the intention of
either bettering the performance as a club, profiting from the talents of the individual and
widening the skill gap between African and European teams, or, in the case of many
Portuguese clubs, selling the player to a more prestigious club and profiting immensely,
further widening the economic gap.

Employing a hyper-globalist optimist perspective in reference to African football migratory

practices highlights a minimal number of benefits for African football. Those who adopt this
perspective tend to examine the players who have made it in professional football,
discussing the financial benefits not only received by the individual, but by family members
and communities back home, too. Thus, it is important to note that the majority of
Africans who travel abroad in hopes of making it often do not, and are either transported
home in horrendous conditions or left to fend for themselves alone in an unfamiliar city
(Esson, 2015b). Optimists believe the international success of African teams comes down to
many Africans migrating abroad and adopting European tactics, but it is difficult to
ascertain these successes when one looks at African footballs record within World Cup
history. Only 3 times has an African team made it to the quarter-final of a World Cup
(Cameroon - 1990, Senegal - 2002 and Ghana - 2010) and none have yet to advance further.
Employing an optimist perspective turns a blind eye to the exploitive practices of European
football teams. Although some benefits can be seen in the life of the individual who makes
it, these numbers are often miniscule and do not represent the wider majority of African
youths who traverse continents in pursuit of their dreams.


Mozambique still face the trouble of losing their footballing talent to Portugal in todays
football market. Mozambique are still considered one of the poorest countries in the world
(IMF, 2016) and their weak footballing infrastructure renders them unable to provide similar
monetary rewards offered to players by Portuguese clubs. Franks theoretical framework of
dependent underdevelopment places Portugal and Mozambiques relationship within the
wider context of African football migratory practices, positing Portugal as a core nation,
taking advantage of their former colonial history, and wielding their economic power to
exploit the periphery (Mozambique) for cheap footballing labour.

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