Pemba vs. Maputo - Sport or Politics

Sport as an opportunity for political campaigning.

I'm not known for being a great fan of Football but given the opportunity when overseas I will jump at the opportunity to go to a game - football crowds seem to reflect the personality of a country or region pretty well.

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On assignment in Mozambique recently I was faced with a Sunday off and nothing to do - asking my driver what people do on their days off in Pemba he suggested football and mentioned there was a game that very afternoon when local team Ferroviario took on a team from the capital Maputo.  Turning up at the stadium I realised I was the only non local in the crowd so drew a little bit of attention - I was glad to have my discrete little Fuji x100s with me rather than my more usual Canon gear.  Soon after I started shooting images I realised there was more to the occasion than just football.  With upcoming elections only weeks away the match was being used as a opportunity for a little political campaigning by the ruling Frelimo party.

With the game in full swing, posters, hats and stickers were being given out - to be honest the crowd were more interested in stickers than tackles and goals were the only thing that would distract kids from getting their hands on a picture of the presidential candidate..  That's successful campaigning by any standards.

Frelimo has dominated the country's politics since independence from Portugal in 1975 but the last-minute entry of its long-standing opponent Renamo made the presidential vote a tight call.  Renamo, which fought Frelimo in the 16-year civil war, took up arms again in 2013 but in August agreed a ceasefire.

By the end of the match the majority of kids were fans of Frelimo - in a country where poverty is rife the simple handing out of a few stickers and a poster can provide political gains for years to come.

I'm heading back to Mozambique tomorrow for another 10 day trip.  Frelimo came out top in last wednesdays election but not without calls from Renamo for the results to be annulled due to irregularities in the voting process.

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