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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Mauritian football seeks comeback
Mauritian youths playing football
Mauritian soccer fans follow the Premiership closely
Mauritius is trying to stir up interest in domestic football, after fans have snubbed the local league in favour of the English Premiership.

Fans say the national game has become boring while European football with its stars and drama is more exiting.

Observers say domestic soccer has been in decline ever since teams based on ethnicity and religion were banned following rioting between rival fans.

The government has started a task force to revive support for the local game.

The island, which has 1.3m inhabitants, has a huge variety of sports on offer, from deep sea fishing to beach volleyball and tennis.

Football riots

Football is the nation's most popular sport, but most of the attention is on what is happening thousands of kilometres away.

"My father is Liverpool, my brother is Chelsea and me, Manchester United," one fan told the World Service's World Football programme.

For football to have a new start, we need to have our own fan clubs like Manchester or Chelsea
Silvio Tang
Sports Minister

Many fans say the standard of football in the domestic Super League is poor.

The local press is full of the latest news from the English Premiership with articles on the likes of Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

A local bank even offers a Manchester United or Liverpool bank account where the interest rates increase slightly if either team wins.

Football in Mauritius had developed along ethnic and religious lines and sporting rivalry fuelled social tension between rival fans, said local sports journalist Yasine Mohabuth.

He said the game suffered a body blow in 1999 when rioting erupted around the island following the controversial end to a championship-deciding match.

The Creole-based Fire Brigade beat Scouts Club, supported mostly by Muslims, 1-0 after a disputed penalty.

"Football was stopped for about eight months and the government decided to ban all teams representing the different [ethnic groups] in Mauritius like the Hindus, the Creoles and the Muslims," Mr Mohabuth said.

Flagging interest

The overhaul led to a drop in interest in the domestic league in favour of European soccer, especially the English Premiership, whose matches are broadcast on national television twice a week.

The government task force set up to resuscitate Mauritian football is due to publish its findings in September.

Sports Minister Silvio Tang said what was clear was the need to introduce a thorough youth football development programme.

"For football to have a new start, we need to have our own fan clubs like Manchester or Chelsea, " he said.

"We need to have this kind of marketing to promote football in Mauritius."

Yet others believe say the only way to revive interest in domestic football is to allow cultural and ethnic groups to run clubs as it was done in the past.

Paradise worships Man United
04 Oct 98 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Mauritius
26 Jun 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Mauritius
23 Jun 06 |  Country profiles

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