“The war is over, we’re playing happy football now” – this statement by Angola coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ will remain valid for some time to come. Despite the tips and downs of the last few months (a 2-1 win over Cote d’lvoire was cancelled out by a 3-0 defeat to Guinea), Angola, with its twelve million people, is one of Africa’s up-and-coming nations. The Palancas Negras comfortably topped their group to qualify for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana. They are also considered favourites to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa ahead of Benin, Uganda and Niger. More than ever before, Goncalves is placing his faith in players who earn their money abroad, such as Porto defender Pedro Emanuel, 32, Benfica striker Pedro Manuel Mantorras, 25, Sion defender Kali, 29, Leeds United’s Rui Marques, 30, plus midfielder Gilberto, 25, and striker Flavio, 28, both of Egypt’s most successful club, Al-Ahly.
Angola’s 30-year-old captain, Fabrice Akwa, is now back home playing for Petro Luanda, who came third in the Angolan league last season. The title was secured by Inter Luanda, who finished one point ahead of Primeiro de Agosto.
A further highlight for the Angolan football association, which now has 665,000 registered players, will be the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil in January 2010.