Football, the most popular sport in Mauritius, was introduced to the island at the start of the 20th century by British settlers. Clubs rapidly started up all over the island – many, like in England, started in universities, notably the Royal College of Curepipe and Saint-Joseph College, while others sprang from the various communities that made up Mauritian society at that time. The clubs’ names sometimes referred to their ethnic origins, such as the Dragons chinois, or came from national symbols such as the Dodo Football Club (the now-extinct dodo was previously only found on the island of Mauritius).
Football in Mauritius becomes structured
Gradually, the clubs and leaders of Mauritian football began to create formal structures, including, in 1935, the national league. The other major national competition, the Republic Cup, was launched in 1957.
In the meantime, a national team was put together. Nicknamed “Club M”, their first-ever match was in 1947 against a team from Réunion. They went on to win the Indian Ocean Games Triangulaire (the forerunner to the Indian Ocean Island Games) ten times between 1947 and 1963.
Obviously, it was then felt that an organisation to coordinate all their activities was required, and in 1952 the Mauritius Football Association (MFA) was founded. Ten years later, it became affiliated to CAF (Confédération Africaine de Football) and then, in 1964, to FIFA. It also became necessary to build a stadium to host the national team’s matches and so, in 1955, the George V Stadium was built in the town of Curepipe.
Despite these developments, the country’s small size made it difficult for them to play a significant role on the continental football scene. They have only taken part in the Africa Cup of Nations once, in 1974, and in 1985 they won the Indian Ocean Island Games.
A new era for Mauritian football?
In 2001, the Sports Act reinvigorated football in Mauritius. Firstly, it was decided that clubs in the Mauritian league, which has three divisions, would be organised according to their geographical rather than their ethnic roots. Secondly, the MFA put a greater focus on youth football. Above all, the MFA aimed to strengthen its participation in international football and sport.
In 2003, it hosted the Indian Ocean Island Games at the George V Stadium, which had been renovated for the event. Club M benefited from their home advantage to win the football tournament once again. In May 2013, continuing with this ambition to strengthen its presence on the international football scene, the MFA will host the 63rd FIFA Congress.