Mauritian Football’s coming home

Diaspora in UK

By Malini Daby

Forget three lions on a shirt, there’s a new sheriff in town!

A sporting gust of Mauritian energy enveloped Roundshaw Playing Fields in Croydon on Sunday 9th June 2019. Seven teams battled it out in hope of winning the annual Mauritian Football championship title.

Organised by the Mauritian Football Committee (MFC), this annual tournament is carefully coordinated with the ongoing commitment of several individuals to provide a community sporting event for Mauritians in the UK.

The Mauritian tournament was founded by Girish Daby about 30 years ago. With the help and support of key members such as Kevin Neelia, Noel Valapinee, Nitia Nadar and Ruben Pavaday, the tournament has grown from strength to strength.

According to Girish Daby, this tournament is not only focused on playing football, but brings together the community as well. The focus is on the younger generation. It provides a sense of belonging and sporting purpose.

The participating teams with apt names like Chagos, Cosmos, Real Maurice, Catania, Club des Iles, Skylark and Herts came together in a positive spirit, holding friendly, yet competitive challenges to secure the success of their respective clubs’ objectives.

The format of the tournament was a round robin where all the teams had a chance to play each other. The top four would contest the semi-finals. It was a gruelling day for the players in this exhausting, demanding schedule that extracts the last drop of energy from all players. Catania, a Mauritian football team from Italy played with a positive sportsman attitude that won them a Sportsmanship award.

The football journey continued to the exhilarating finals which opened an exciting sportive battle between Real Maurice and Cosmos.

Real Maurice struggled in the finals, with an injured goalkeeper in the second half, although Charlie Clarke who plays for Real Maurice was the overall top goal scorer, clinching 7 goals in the tournament.

Cosmos United FC, who are celebrating their 51st anniversary, led the match against Real Maurice. They were spurred on by determination for the title and a strong network of supporters who revved up the atmosphere with an ongoing chorus of ear-splitting singing and dancing and loud banging of ravane and bongos. Cosmos players responded to the tune of pulsating sega, their playing rhythm gathering momentum and heightening their belief and strength with every drum beat. The incessant and relentless music, a cacophony of noise from the Cosmos support seemed to energize and invigorate the Cosmos players.

Real Maurice, winners three years ago, mounted a strong challenge. However, the team, now decimated with injuries to key players and the loss of their goalkeeper, finally succumbed.

Cosmos are the new Champions!

In the most jubilant of celebrations, Cosmos lifted their trophy with immense pride and honour.

Football Chelsea star and national England Player, Callum Hudson-Odoi, was in person to present the trophy to the winning team. This is testament that the MFC has gathered interest beyond Mauritian community borders.

Aside from the entertainment of football, there were over 400 people present to support the teams which contributed to the success of the tournament. Delicious Mauritian delicacy food, dalpuri, fried noodles, fried bread and gateau piments provided by sponsor Ravi Dabysingh of Manze Des Iles, an established Mauritian food business based in London’s vibrant Tooting Broadway Market added the needed island flavour to the occasion. Other sponsors were Pembridge Solicitors and Beechwood House Care home.

The tournament as a whole provides a window of understanding of the Mauritian spirit and its fostering of togetherness. It is an opportunity to meet up with family and friends who you may not see on a regular basis and this in itself makes it momentous. For this, our special thanks go to all participants who come together every year to make this a memorable annual event.

Congratulations to Cosmos FC and a big thank you to Thank You to Girish Daby and the MFC committee for their tireless contribution towards this day.

Roll on more spectacular football for 2020!

* Published in print edition on 21 June 2019

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