Mauritius hoping for rosy future
Exactly 20 years ago, in August 2000, Mauritius occupied 116th place in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Aside from the 112th spot they were assigned when the ranking was introduced in 1992, it remains the high-water mark in the islanders’ footballing history.
To hit those heights, they notably drew with teams of the calibre of Gabon and South Africa and defeated Angola during qualifying for the 2000 CAF Africa Cup of Nations. At that time, their talisman was Jimmy Cundasamy, an amateur player whose club career never took him beyond Mauritius and Reunion. Despite that, Cundasamy and his team-mates in that Dodos side still command respect today.
“On our island, the only teams we all know about are that golden generation, as well as the one that qualified for the 1974 Africa Cup. They brought glory to our country, and every Mauritian interested in football knows a bit about their epic feats,” the international defender Lindsay Rose tells FIFA.com. “They’ve written pages in our history, but there’s still a little room for us to write some of our own.”
While Cundasamy is a veritable Mauritian legend, in part due to his being the most capped player in the team’s history, Rose is not that far behind. Despite what he himself calls ‘a small number’ of international appearances (five), the former Lyon defender unquestionably has the most impressive CV of any Mauritian player. He is still the only professional from his country to participate in a European club competition – the UEFA Europa League – and to be playing in a top-flight league in the Old Continent – that of Greece.
For all that, the Aris Thessaloniki central defender is modest about his achievements: “I consider myself at best one of the leaders in the national team” he says. “There’s no place for stars in this team, we’re on an equal footing. We’re all footballers who share a love for the game and their nation, and whose qualities complement each other.”
Indeed, qualities are something Rose has in abundance. As well as his extensive European experience, whether in the French Ligue 1 or Greece, this rugged 1.84m centre-back is both versatile – he scored three goals last season – and dependable, having recently broken the Greek record for the most consecutive games (44).
“I’m very happy in Greece and I particularly appreciate the passion of the fans here. When you sweat blood for the jersey, they show their appreciation in return. Here you’re not only judged on your playing stats but also on your effort, your commitment and your human qualities,” explains Rose. “What is more, the results are there to see in a high-level championship. We qualified for the Europa League for the second year in a row. So, it’s very satisfying.”
Despite some encouraging signs, Mauritius have not been able to take full advantage of the current good form of their star player. Les Dodos were eliminated from the qualifying races for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ by Sao Tome and Principe (5-2 on aggregate) and Mozambique (3-0 on aggregate) respectively.
“It’s not all negative, far from it. There’s quality in this team and coming to Mauritius is proving to be a tough task for our opponents. There’s a real foundation of work here,” insists Rose. “I’ve only been with the national team for two and a half years, but I sense genuine progress. There’s a desire to do well, and significant efforts have been made by the federation to promote the development of football on the island and the progress of the national team. I’m confident about the future.”
Moreover, a national technical director in the form of South African Zunaid Mall and a new coach – the Franco-Algerian Boualem Mankour – were appointed in February 2020. “We have to look to the future and the future is young people. We’re going to prepare for the next two years,” the coach said on taking up the role.
Rose shares the coach’s sentiments: “Emulating our predecessors’ achievements is something I see as possible in the future, but we are going to have to be patient. We’re in the process of rebuilding,” he says before concluding. “We need to give ourselves a little time.”