The Sea, Rio Branco, Cobija: a look at footballers born in obscure locations

Have you ever been sat playing Football Manager and FIFA and come across a player and see his nationality and question where on earth that place is? From ‘The Sea’ to the Amazon Jungle, to Suriname, home of some of Holland’s finest imports, Brian Bertie takes a look at some of the finest stories of footballers to originate from obscure nations… 

Weverton – Rio Branco

Image result for weverton rio branco

A gold medalist for Brazil during the 2016 Olympics, and current goalkeeper from Palmeiras, Weverton is one of few from the Acre region, let alone Rio Branco.

Brazilians have a lot of inside jokes, but a popular one includes that Acre does not exist as part of Brazil. Since it’s so isolated to the rest of the country, it’s a state that is often shrouded in mystery. All of the big cities (Cruzeiro do sul, Brasileia and Rio Branco) have below a 700,000 population and this affects its football as well.

Currently, Acre has Atletico Acreano playing in Serie C. While not the historic Rio Branco team, it doesn’t stop the people from actively supporting them since they are closer to the top flight. The historic team, just known as “Rio Branco FC” has played in an international tournament despite never being in the Brazilian Serie A. They played in the Copa CONMEBOL in 1997 and were eliminated in the first round via penalties to Deportivo Tolima of Colombia.

Back to Weverton though. He is known for being an excellent penalty stopper. The shootout in the Olympic final with Germany is a good example. He started at Juventus of Acre. In order to get a move to the east, he played a blinder of a game against Corinthians with Juventus during the Copinha about 10 years ago. The Paulista side were clearly impressed and were keen on bringing him in. He is usually affiliated with Atletico Paranaense and now he is currently Palmeiras’ keeper, the current champions of the Brazilian top flight.

Rio Mavuba – The Sea

For those who have played Football Manager, you’ll notice that SI’s research team have made Mavuba’s birthplace as “the sea”. This is indeed no mistake, and it is possibly one of the most intriguing stories in world football.

Rio has spent most of his career at LOSC Lille, including during the Gervinho and Eden Hazard era, where they won the title. He is now a frenchman, but it is said that his birth certificate claims he was born at sea, and has no nationality on it. There is quite the story about it.

He is the son of Mafuila Mavuba, a former footballer from the DR Congo, otherwise known as Zaire back in those days. He was even a part of *that* Zaire team from the 1974 World Cup. Sometimes infamously known as “the worst team in World Cup history”. Zaire of course has dealt with plenty of conflict since the 1960’s. Even after the Leopold era, they have not seen plenty of moments of peace despite them arguably being the richest country on earth in terms of resources.

During the Congo war, Mafuila escaped to Angola. While there is few official sources that claim he met his fiancé in Angola, given Mavuba’s mother is Angolan, it is fair to assume he did. Of course, Angola later experienced a civil war of their own, which led to Mafuila escaping again, this time to sea. In 1984, Rio Mavuba was born with no official passport. They escaped to France and he didn’t get his passport officially until 2004.

Gatty Ribeiro – Cobija

Related image

Bolivia may be landlocked, and begging for a coast, but this doesn’t stop them from being an absolutely gorgeous nation. As all countries, there are particular regions that don’t get much importance or attention as they should, and that area in Bolivia is perhaps Cobija located in the far north on the border with Brazil.

Located in the Amazon jungle, Cobija is not the first type of landscape that comes to mind when people think of Bolivia. Despite this, it should be interesting to note most of Bolivia’s best footballers come from Santa Cruz de la Sierra which is more grounded as opposed to La Paz, the infamous capital that is the highest in the world, and where Bolivia play all their home games at 3600 metres above sea level.

Gatty Ribeiro isn’t the most prestigious footballer to ever play, but there is quite the unique story to him. He was born in Cobija, and was taken to La Paz to play for Bolivar, arguably the country’s biggest club. He was a right back, and played there professionally for about 8 years before moving to Real Potosi.

His final club was Guabira and then retired in 2011. However, in 2013 something happened that made him rethink things. Universitario de Pando won the Bolivian Segunda Division and became the first ever team from the Pando region to play in the Bolivian top flight. This made Gatty come out of retirement and play for his new local side. They played their games on the University pitch, since a proper stadium was not yet constructed. Today, they have a built stadium called the Estadio Jordan Cuellar, which holds about 24,000 people. This is nearly half of Cobija’s population and is one of the bigger stadiums in Bolivia.

Unfortunately for Universitario Pando, they immediately got relegated and never has a club from Pando played in the top flight again. Gatty Ribeiro retired again however, decided to stay in his home town instead of La Paz and began to pursue politics. Similar to other footballers such as Romario and George Weah did after retirement.

Gatty won the municipal elections in 2015 and became the mayor of Cobija. That is another former international footballer (he did get a few caps for Bolivia) to add to the politics list. Cobija even has a club named after him now that actually does quite well in their region.

Clarence Seedorf – Suriname

Image result for seedorf

One of the greatest players of the 21stcentury, it’s hard to not include Seedorf in one of these lists. In terms of club history, it speaks for itself. However, how did he go from one of the smallest South American countries with an obscurity with football to becoming a part of one of the world footballing powers in the Netherlands?

Well the story is quite simple, but first Suriname does deserve an introduction. Firstly, similar to Guyana, Suriname is technically not a part of South America. Geographically, it is located on the continent. However, it is very different to most South American countries and often they refer to themselves as part of the carribean.

They speak Dutch which is not a latin language, not many people know about Suriname in South America and they drive on the left side of the road, something that is unheard of in many parts of the America’s, let alone the south. However, the most important thing as mentioned, is that they don’t really consider themselves South Americans. Kind of similar to how some Egyptians don’t consider themselves Africans, even though they are based in the continent.

Now as for Clarence Seedorf, he was born in the capital of Paramaibo but moved to Almere in Holland when he was 2 years old. Of course he started his career at Ajax and went on to become one of the dutch greats. Not much of an argument with the following, but he is easily the best footballer to come out of Suriname, despite never playing for their national team.

Brian Bertie wrote a thread on Twitter about this topic, which has more examples. You can see that below: 

The Kolkata Derby, Asia’s Old Firm rivalry

By Kieran Ahuja

The nearly century-old Boro Match, Bengali for ‘Big Match’, regularly attracts attendances of nearly 100,000.

On December 29th, 49,863 people, mostly comprised of enthusiastic Glaswegians, turned out at Ibrox to watch the Old Firm Derby, a rivalry between Celtic and Rangers that is deeply ingrained in Scottish culture. It’s an incendiary match marked by passionate sectarianism, fierce rivalries and a delicate sense of pride; it’s the sound of tens of thousands of Scottish fans roaring until their voices crack as 22 players (often less by the end) push, shove and barge each other whilst vaguely adhering to the rules of football.

Continue reading “The Kolkata Derby, Asia’s Old Firm rivalry”

The city of Newport: an unlikely setting for football fairytales

For the second year running, Newport County defied logic and odds to overcome English football giants in the FA Cup. Padraig Amond, who scored against Spurs last year, netted the all-important penalty to secure the Welsh minnows a historic and seismic upset against former Premier League champions, Leicester City. This time last year, goals from Conor Shaughnessy and Shawn McCoulsky saw off the mighty Leeds United. Not bad, hey? It’s not always been glamorous for football in the city of Newport, however, and our man Lewis Steele has explored the history and murky tales of the numerous clubs that have operated under the name of Newport… 

Continue reading “The city of Newport: an unlikely setting for football fairytales”

Events at the San Siro on Boxing day are symptomatic of the deep-seated issues in Italian ultra culture

On the 27th December, an Inter Milan fan died in hospital after being hit by a van whilst fans clashed before a game between Inter Milan and Napoli at the San Siro the day before. The incident occurred at the end of a fight that involved around 60 people. It was also reported that three Napoli fans were stabbed and subsequently hospitalised.

Continue reading “Events at the San Siro on Boxing day are symptomatic of the deep-seated issues in Italian ultra culture”

Football in the UAE: ‘A footnote to society’ growing to become an international force

UAE club Al Ain made the FIFA Club World Cup final on Saturday, where they faced the biggest club in the world, Real Madrid. The score aside, it was a historic day for football in the UAE, and also football in the rest of the surrounding nations. 

For many nations in the world, football is the bread of life. When you think of football in South America, for example, it is easy to imagine children playing football without organisational structure: walking down to the local park with a battered football and playing football, just for the sake of it. Not necessarily with friends, not even with goals, just kicking a ball about, because that’s a way of life. In some Asian nations, it is the same. For football fans worldwide, football is a way in – it allows fans to enter a world that they become embroiled in. For other nations, it is a way out – a way to escape from every day life, a footnote to society.

Continue reading “Football in the UAE: ‘A footnote to society’ growing to become an international force”

Buenos Aires: Mes qúe Boca y River

By Andrew Misra

A month of delirium rolls on in Argentina after the 2-2 draw in the first leg of Boca Juniors v River Plate in the Copa Libertadores Final. Unsurprisingly, all eyes in South America and beyond have been fixated on the biggest clash in the history of arguably the most intense footballing rivalry – the Superclásico. Bookies were quoting 1/250 for more than two yellow cards in the first leg. Off the pitch, these fixtures dodged security issues and the G20 Summit. While not expected to dazzle on the pitch, the first ninety minutes weren’t a damp squib in the end, despite rain postponing the match by a day. Boca can still win the trophy with a lap of honour in River’s El Monumental stadium on 24th November. It would be easy to focus on these two great superpowers from Buenos Aires (pronounced “Bwenos I-res”) who play out the battle of the continent. But to ignore the pedigree elsewhere in the capital would be to do an injustice to the city of “fair wind”. Greater Buenos Aires is home to 14 million people or one-third of the country’s population, and no fewer than 24 professional football teams. This includes the ‘Big Five’ teams in the country. This remarkable city has a profound influence on South American football.

Continue reading “Buenos Aires: Mes qúe Boca y River”

Madagascar: Big population, but no longer small in football terms

The island nation have qualified for the African Cup of Nations for the first time, after a convincing qualifying campaign.

By Kieran Ahuja

Madagascar have typically not had much luck in the footballing world. In a continent where teams such as Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa often qualify for the world cup, the island nation has been both metaphorically and geographically on the periphery. In the six decades that the AFCON has been running, the competition has been held 31 times – with Madagascar, until now, continually failing to qualify. They’ve had more success looking eastwards, being the winners of the Indian Ocean Island games in 1990 and the runners-up in 2007. But, these wins are against teams who you’ve probably never heard of (Comoros? Mayotte?), most of whom come from islands with sub-million populations.

Continue reading “Madagascar: Big population, but no longer small in football terms”