Friday, May 28, 2010

Focus On Cape Verde's Football; Plus, Exclusive Interview With Tony Araujo

by Angela Asante

Cape Verde is a small country on the geographical map, just like in the world of football. Currently occupying the 117th rank in the FIFA World Rankings, Cape Verde’s national football team surely has a long way to go to achieve the standards of other Portuguese-speaking nations such as Brazil.
Arguably, the Tubarões Azuis cannot even compare their achievements to those of low-profiled African rivals Angola, who at least made history by reaching their first ever World Cup finals back in 2006.
In this slide show, we learn much about Cape Verde's football as FIFA Licensed Players' Agent Tony Araujo speaks in an exclusive interview which I had with him. Free yourself from ignorance with a deep look at this country's football.

Cape Verde’s Past History In Football

On January 7, 1979, Cape Verde played an international match for the first time. The experience proved to be a miserable one as they went down 3-0 to Guinea-Bissau. Two years later, the Blue Sharks suffered a humiliating 5-1 defeat against Senegal in Mali.
Actually, this emphatic loss proved to be their biggest defeat ever, along with the 4-0 thrashing they suffered in Praia against the Black Stars of Ghana in 2005. These records still stand as of now, May 2010.
No FIFA World Cup memories, no Africa Cup of Nations delights. The Cape Verde Islands have never qualified for any of those major tournaments.
However, the last decade witnessed a lot of improvement from the country’s national football team. After finishing third in the Amilcar Cabral Cup in 1995, the Tubarões Azuis finally won the title in 2000 to start the 21st century on a high.
Cape Verde then went on to win bronze at the 2006 Lusophony Games and clinched the second place a year later in the Amilcar Cabral Cup. Last year, the country tasted glory again after nine years of wait with gold medals at the Lusophony Games.
Among their achievements in the 21st century and in 2009, Cape Verde recorded its biggest win after thrashing Equatorial Guinea 5-0.

Cape Verde's Evolution On The International Stage

The Blue Sharks don’t just compete against African counterparts. They’ve also affronted countries from Europe such as Luxembourg, Malta, and most recently, Portugal.
November 2, 2002 is the date when Cape Verde first came up against a non-African side. On that day, they played out a scoreless draw to obtain a bit of pride. Malta, by the way, failed to resist against the Cape Verdeans’ desire to progress in the world of football when both met on September 4, 2009. The Blue Sharks triumphed 2-0 at the end of the 90 minutes.
Four years ago, Cape Verde lost 4-1 to Portugal in a friendly encounter. However, on May 24 this year, the Blue Sharks succeeded in teaching their former colonialists a tough lesson.
In a game that included the likes of the world’s most expensive player Cristiano Ronaldo and of Manchester United and Cape Verde-born creative winger Luis Nani, the Crioulos defended with ability and therefore secured a historic 0-0 draw in the end. The 117th ranked nation had just reminded the world’s third best team (according to FIFA’s present rankings) how poor they are as a unit and in attack ahead of the 2010 World Cup tournament.

Interview: Angela Asante One On One With FIFA Agent Tony Araujo

Now Cape Verde’s national football team can look forward to a brighter future. Who knows? We might see them competing for the continent’s top prize during the next Africa Cup of Nations championship.
In an exclusive interview, we look at Cape Verde as a football nation through the experience of FIFA Licensed Players’ Agent Tony Araujo.Tony Araujo, is a Cape Verdean-born professional who currently resides in New York City.

FIFA Agent Tony Araujo Talks About Cape Verde's Evolution

Angela Asante: On a realistic point of view, what do you think of the future of Cape Verde in the game of football?
Tony Araujo: I think that Cape Verde has a promising footballing future. If the Cape Verdean football authorities keep implementing the same short-term and long-term projects like they have been doing since the past 10 years, Cape Verde will certainly be able to achieve amazing and unprecedented results on the international scene. However, it will require a lot of work and mobilization in terms of financial support and resources beyond the scope of Cape Verdean authorities.
Angela Asante: Talking about the international scene, Cape Verde seems to show good signs of progress despite having played only a few numbers of friendly matches against non-African sides over time. Tell us more about this considerable evolution.
Tony Araujo: Well, it is almost unconceivable to think of Cape Verde, who is currently ranked 117th in the world, holding a football superpower like Portugal to a goalless result. I still remember that about a decade ago, the country’s national team had never played any European side. It all started with games against small sides like Luxembourg and Malta and then it followed with encounters against high-profiled teams like giants Portugal. In fact, Cape Verde has a huge Diaspora all over the world.
This provides us with a competitive advantage against many other African nations. The Cape Verdean Football authorities should start reaching out to various Cape Verdean communities around the world like in Portugal, in France, in Holland, in Luxembourg, in Italy, in the USA, and primarily in the New England area where there is a huge talented pool of football players playing in the prestigious New England Luso-American Soccer Association League which is considered to be one of the finest and most competitive amateur football league in the United States.
This initiative will bring in amazing and prospective talented footballers that are plying their trade in this amateur league.

FIFA Agent Tony Araujo Talks About Cape Verde's Talents

Angela Asante: "You’re talking about talented footballers originating from the Cape Verde Islands, could you give out specific names?"
Tony Araujo: "Yes, there are so many potential talents in this league. They range from players such as powerful striker Zico Veiga, talented and speedy wingers like Justin and Jessy Almeida Fernandez who are twin brothers. I will also mention Ernesto Lopes, a versatile playmaker in the midfield, besides the up and coming Willito Fernandes who is a 19-year-old midfielder with a great scoring touch.
Willito is considered by many as one of the best talent in this area, just like Idelce Lopes who is a very good central defender; Idelce possesses all the necessary skills to take it to the next level."
Angela Asante: "Interesting. So certainly, Cape Verde possesses a lot of talent. Now what does the national football team lack to reach at least the standard of other African nations such as Ghana, Nigeria, or even Algeria?"
Tony Araujo: "Cape Verde certainly counts many talented players when it comes to the sport of football. Cape Verdean footballers and their team are making inroads as well as impact in the development of the sport here in the USA. Last year, a Brockton, Massachusetts-based Cae Verdean team called the Emigrantes Das Ilhas FC competed in the highest US national amateur competition.
And they made it all the way to the final where they were beaten on penalties in extra time. That is quite impressive for a non-profit football club with only few financial resources and backing. If you look at what has happened on the international football scene for the past two decades, you will see that Cape Verde has produced top footballing talents.
However, football programs in Cape Verde need to be better structured, marketed, and above all they need a better financing system whether it may be from private investors, from the country’s Government, or through key sponsorships from leading international kit suppliers such as Adidas, Nike, and Puma. But, the emphasis needs to be placed on the youth development of the sport."

FIFA Agent Tony Araujo Talks About The Solutions

Angela Asante: "Any solution, then?"
Tony Araujo: "Well, in order for Cape Verde’s football to reach the standard or the height of its African football counterparts such as Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and Togo, the Cape Verdean football authorities will need to work extremely hard and with the support of strong financial backing as well as through the involvement of the Cape Verdean Government authorities. This will place a strong emphasis on the development of the sports at youth or grassroots level on a national scale."
Angela Asante: "So most recently, how have things gone in the country in terms of football and players?"
Tony Araujo: For the past two decades or so, all of the best Cape Verdean footballers have been trained almost exclusively at either EPIF or by Batuque Futebol Club. For your information, EPIF is a well-known and established soccer school in the capital city of Praia. Batuque Futebol Club, by the way, is an amateur football club in Cape Verde that places an emphasis on the development of the sport at a youth level.
Batuque FC is one of the few teams that invest a lot of money on that, actually. Either way, Cape Verde cannot keep relying solely and exclusively on these two key sporting institutions to develop the future footballers for the country’s national team.
The Cape Verdean government authorities alongside with the Cape Verdean football association will need to subsidize the creation and finance of key additional youth football development projects such as those of EPIF and Batuque FC on a grandeur scale and on a national basis throughout all of the 9 inhabited islands."
Angela Asante: "Then what should be done in your opinion, M. Tony Araujo?"
Tony Araujo: "Most importantly, they will need to continually finance, subsidize, as well as support the key existing football clubs and football structures. Now lastly, but not least, they will need to create a national youth championship that will foster a new level of competition among potent young footballers.
In this case, many of Cape Verde’s young hidden talents will be discovered, selected, trained, and channeled to the various national team categories."

FIFA Agent Tony Araujo Talks About Players And National Pride

Angela Asante: "Luis Nani, Henrik Larsson... these players have Cape Verdean origins. However, they haven't contributed in the growth of the country's football as they possess other nationalities. What would you say to upcoming talents who dream of playing abroad to therefore stand the chance of participating in big events such as the World Cup?"
Tony Araujo: "Yes, that is quite a true statement. Yes, those two players [Nani and Larsson] are of Cape Verdean origins but they are not an exception. Patrick Vieira, Jorge Andrade, Oceano, and others are too.
There have been many talented footballers of Cape Verdean origin that have opted to represent other national teams instead of Cape Verde’s. Actually, this is the case for Nani, Miguel, Nelson, Rolando, Manuel Fernandes, Gerson Fernandes, and David Mendes, Varela, Eliseu, and many more other players.
However, carrying the jersey of a national team should be a matter of pride and nothing else. To me, it seems like those players placed their financial well-being interests before their national pride but I truly respect their decisions."
Angela Asante: "But if it goes on this way as Cape Verde’s FA is yet to give more attraction to the country’s football, wouldn’t it be harder for your suggestions mentioned earlier to be executed?
I mean, as a FIFA Licensed Players’ Agent, you would certainly be pleased to contribute in turning things around at the benefit of Cape Verde. What is your advice to rising stars who dream about following the footsteps of renowned players like Nani or Patrick Vieira?"
Tony Araujo: "As a Football Players’ Agent, my advice to the new generation of upcoming Cape Verdean talents is to put the country first before anything else. I would ask them to instill a sense of national pride on themselves, since football like no other sports has the amazing ability and power of bringing people of any country together.
In Cape Verde, this will not be an exception. I would ask them this question: would you rather play for your own country and help it progress on football’s international arena or would you choose to represent another country’s national team and be just another player in that national team pool that often never gets the call-up from its Head Coach?"

FIFA Agent Tony Araujo Talks Optimistically About Cape Verde's Future

Angela Asante: "So for the time being, M. Araujo, any optimism?"
Tony Araujo: "Well, Cape Verde has proven that even though it is a small country economically and geographically, it is an up-and-coming footballing nation with tons of potential. If planned, administered, and financed properly I think that in the world of football, Cape Verde can be almost what the Dominican Republic is in the sport of Baseball nowadays."
Angela Asante: "Now, according to your statements, there seems to be quite a long way to go for Cape Verde to achieve a considerable amount of respect in football, especially in terms of success and ranking.
Still, the country’s national football team has experienced a lot of progress since the year 2000. How would you explain Cape Verde’s considerable evolution in football since the past 10 years?"
Tony Araujo: "All of the success and achievements thus far achieved by the Cape Verdean football has been the result of a collective work done by the Cape Verdean football authorities, mainly the President of the Cape Verdean Football Association Mr. Mario Semedo, the Head Coach Joao De Deus and his Assistants such as Lucio Antunes.
Also, I have to attribute a lot of this success to FIFA for their continued collaboration, partnership and financial support through their FIFA Goal Program, coaching & referee training and certification among many other financial contributions and support.
In addition to that, I have to attribute some of the success to soccer schools and academies like EPIF, administered by the long-time Cape Verdean football pioneer Mr. Jose Ramos Lobo; that was actually the first project of that sort established in the country. Besides, I would like to emphasize the work that Mr. Mario Semedo and his team have done in terms of building top class football facilities throughout the country.
Nowadays, it is possible for Cape Verdean footballers to play football on artificial turf throughout the country and that is due to the strong collaboration between FIFA and the Cape Verdean Football authorities. I am pretty sure that CAF and UEFA have helped financed some of the football projects in Cape Verde too.
Last but not least, Mr. Joao De Deus, the Portuguese Head Coach for the Cape Verde national team and his Technical team. They have done an amazing job in implementing key changes to the various national team categories, such as the changes in the talent discovery, identification, selection, training, and eventual call-ups for the senior national team. Mr. Joao De Deus and his team create a world class coaching staff."

As I conclude this coverage, it is my duty to thank each and every reader for taking interest in looking deep at Cape Verde's football. Many thanks to Cape Verde-born FIFA Licensed Players' Agent Tony Araujo for his time with me, Angela Asante, Soccer Analyst.

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by Angela Asante bleacherreport


  1. Great article, very insightful. Mr. Araujo knows what he's talking about. Without support or a sense of Patriotism, we won't be able to retain our top flight talent. We need to make forth a better effort in instilling National Pride and Identity. FORCA CABO VERDE.

  2. Nos jugadores sta de parabens igual nos agente senhor Tony, Cabo verde pode ca bai copa ma el ta ser conhecido na copa, so assim nu ta sai de buraco

  3. I share your opinion Mr. Araujo, and I really admire all of your efforts.

  4. impressive Tony, keep up the good work. we need more people like you to help elevate our athletes and cv. FORCA CABO VERDE.

  5. Sta bom de self-promotion ago nu ta spera obiu hora ki algum de bus clientes assina ku algum time.please don't make this about you....

  6. well done Tony. keep representing us Cvs in a positive way.

  7. nos atletas tem so a benefia hora ki nu teni inviduos sima bo ta trabadja pa es.

  8. Iff we keep up this good work , we have a good future in the world of soccer.