What was Angola's previous name?

Soccer World Cup 2006

Daniel Theweleit

To person

Daniel Theweleit, born in 1972, works as a journalist, author and columnist for various publications such as the S├╝ddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau and Spiegel Online. He is also involved in various football cultural projects and is particularly excited about the World Cup with the African teams.

Angola created tension in the African qualifying round. After six unsuccessful attempts, the country has managed to qualify for the finals of a soccer world championship for the first time. Daniel Theweleit, Africa football expert, introduces the country.


Country flag Angola (& copy public domain)
It was still about a year before the start of the European World Cup qualification, when Angola's dream of participating in the tournament was almost over. It was in the autumn of 2003, the Europeans were still struggling to qualify for the European Championship in Portugal, when the African nations had to compete in a kind of preliminary round of the World Cup. Angola was supposed to play against the football dwarf Chad, in the Fifa world rankings far behind countries like St. Kitts and Nevis or Andorra, and lost the first leg with 1: 3. The then Brazilian coach Ismael Kurtz was unceremoniously fired and replaced by today's coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves, and today everyone agrees that this defeat was a moment of initiation for the football of the West African nation. With great effort, the Angolans were able to win the second leg 2-0 and take part in the qualifying round - the beginning of a miraculous success story.

Strictly speaking, Angola itself is a football dwarf, the country was never among the top ten in Africa's rankings, only two times (1996, 1998) had qualifications for the continental championship and until the final 3-2 win against Togo in Africa -Cup 2006 had not won a single game at this tournament. Participating in the World Cup has so far been as utopian as colonizing Mars.

26 years of civil war: there was little space for football

The reasons for this are quickly summarized: "War, war, war," says Alvaro de Almeida Mabi, and for a brief moment an expression of deep disgust crosses his happy face. "For years all money was just put into war," the Angolan assistant trainer recalls in fluent German. During the GDR era, he studied sports education in Zwickau for a few years. After his return to Angola in the early 1990s, he worked under bizarre conditions as a coach in the national league. "We couldn't take the bus to most of the away games, it was too dangerous," he said. "You had to fly, and we always feared that the plane would be shot down. In addition, flying was expensive, and that drove some clubs to the brink of ruin."

For almost three decades the country was in a state of warlike atrocity. After Portugal gained independence from colonial power in 1975, a civil war over the country's rich natural resources began that lasted 26 years and killed a million people. The league was maintained during the war, but a national team that deserved this name could only be dreamed of during these years.

How real the threat to one's own life was is shown by the fate of some national players who lost their families during the cruel times. Pedro Mantorras, a striker who plays for Benfica, said: "I lost both parents when I was 16 and I had to survive alone with my siblings". He tells it soberly, it's an everyday story for an Angolan his age. Nando Rafael from Borussia M├Ânchengladbach, also a native Angolan, has experienced something similar. His parents died when he was ten, but Rafael was lucky that an uncle brought him to Holland. He now plays for the German U21 national team. "It's a shame that he chose Germany, he could definitely play for us," says Mabi of the Bundesliga player who has already achieved something that many Angolan World Cup participants only dream of.