Tuesday, May 22, 2007

(Portuguese) Football fever in Mindelo

Last week I spent some time in Mindelo on the island of São Vicente, an appealing little city distinguished by its quaint local charm, colonial history, live music and vibrant Cape Verdean culture. On Sunday, the talk of the town (at least for the male half of the population) was the last round of the Portuguese Premier League, with three teams (FC Porto, Benfica, and Sporting) all having the chance to become Portuguese champions.

I already knew that there is a significant football interest in Cape Verde, but I must admit that I was a bit surprised to see the proportions it all took.

For many, the build-up apparently started long before the actual game, and already at lunchtime I had spotted quite a number of more or less intoxicated young men walking the streets, waving distinctly colored flags and garments, chanting away at something that remotely reminded of some kind of football hymns.

Sitting on my hotel balcony enjoying some afternoon sun, I overtly overheard the roars of joy and despair from nearby local bars and apartments, as the games commenced. Apparently, all three football clubs enjoy a fair amount of support among the locals, although I could not tell for sure which team was the more popular.

But when FC Porto eventually emerged as the triumphant team, winning the championship trophy, the party was ON. Honking cars all around the city in never-ending circuits, blue-and-white supporters dancing and jumping in the streets, samba-groups with heavy drumming equipment touring the main square, and lots and lots of ecstatic faces everywhere (the gloomy faces appeared to stay inside). It was as if Cape Verde had won the African Championships.

Personally, although being somewhat of a moderate football fan, I couldn’t care less about who wins the Portuguese Premier League. I remotely follow the Swedish league, and more closely the Swedish national team, but football leagues other countries have never really caught much of my attention.

I therefore can’t help being a little curious about where the enormous interest the locals took in this Portuguese event came from. Especially since I have learned that most, if not all, of the Cape Verdeans are immensely proud of their own country, and generally keen to obliterate, rather than generate, any relations with the old colonial power. So why this huge exception when it comes to the game of football? Why is Portuguese football more important than, say French, Italian or Swedish football (OK you don’t have to answer that latter part of the question). How can it be that one of the most common hotel names in the country is “Hotel Benfica”?

The fact is, I don’t know. Perhaps the national football league in Cape Verde is not yet fully developed (although the national team almost made it to the world championships last time around). Or maybe cheering for a Portuguese football team is one of the few still accepted ways of openly showing a close relationship with the former colonial power, without politics becoming involved.

But this seems to me to be rather bleak explanations. Anyone out there, who might read this and have a better idea, let me know.

9 comments:

Mykah said...

Swedish best footballer ever Henrik Larsson has capeverdean blood :)

Mykah said...

Capeverdeans love sports and the portuguese football was a kind of love at first sight, I guess....

songo said...

I'm capeverdean and I'm a FC Porto fan. You are absolutely right and I've dedicated a lot of my time trying to figure it out, but I do not have the answer myself. It's embarrassing, but it will not go way.
PORTOOOOOOOOOOO

Patrique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrique said...

I'm capeverdean living in lisbon and a big fan FC Porto. The capverdeans cant deny they historical relation with Portugal, but after the independence one of the last things like u said "showing a close relationship with the former colonial power, without politics becoming involved" is football and maybe music... We love their football and they love our music and beaches...
Cap Vert have a lot of funny things that make it us what we are...
Bye and enjoy your staying...

Valdemar said...

without being a psichologist, but a football fan, I should say that football is a serious passion in many part of the world and CV is not exception.

historically CV was connect to Portugal and although cultural diferences from Portugal, the football was a common link.

yet in Portugal, any portuguese from any retiring place is fan of Benfica, Porto or Sporting.
In CV is the same and it passes from fathers/mothers to sons. Its quite a reason for (unhappily not always) healthfull contests in the family or between friends.

And of course it comes also from the fact that CV football don't have the dimension of Portuguese leagues.

Vavá, capeverdian and Porto suporter :)

naz said...

Hi there mate, interesting read. I've seen a lot of the love-hate relationship between former colonies and their erstwhile rulers, by which I mean well-defined attempts by ex-colonies to shake off any remnants of the shackles and establish a new identity (sometimes to an extreme and ridiculous extent) but still retaining elements of culture they admire or are simply used to. Apart from the universal attraction of football (so it seems to me) following the Portuguese League seems to be a natural choice for CVs

naz said...

Oh and as a footie fan I have a lot of respect for Henrik Larsson at Celtic, Barca and my Man Utd.

Angelo said...

Funny, I just posted a story on the same topic on my own blog greatcvadventure.blogspot.com!

I don't believe that Cape Verdeans minimize their ties to Portugal at all. If anything, they minimize their African roots and think of themselves as Portuguese.

This is why the love the Portuguese premier league and those three teams in particular - they are the championship teams. Moreover, it is in the Portuguese leagues where talented Cape Verdean players first earned their caps and rose to the peak of their careers via Porto, Sporting and Benfica.

Of course today, Cape Verdeans appear in other European leagues including those that are arguable even better than the Portuguese leagues. Still, Cape Verdeans in Cape Verde live vicariously through their heroes in the Potuguese premier league!

Next time, go join in the partying!