Maputo — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Friday paid tribute to one of the country's greatest sportsmen, footballer Mario Coluna, who died of a heart attack in Maputo on Tuesday at the age of 78.
Born in 1935 on the island of Inhaca, in the Bay of Maputo, Coluna was one of the black Mozambican footballers recruited by Portuguese clubs during the colonial epoch and who propelled Portugal to the top ranks of footballing nations in the 1960s. He was recruited by the Lisbon club Benfica in 1954, and rose to become the Benfica captain. He was the captain of the Portuguese team that took Portugal to third place in the 1966 World Cup in England.
While other Mozambican stars playing in Portugal, most notably Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, made their home in Lisbon, Coluna came back to Mozambique after independence in 1975, where he trained the Ferroviario Cub and later the national team. He was elected President of the Mozambican Football Federation (FMF), and during the period of the one-party state, he served as a deputy in the parliament of the time, the People's Assembly.
The Mozambican government decreed a day of national mourning for Coluna on Friday, the day of his funeral.
At the funeral ceremonies in Maputo City Hall, Guebuza declared that “in the 1960s, the decade of the rise of Mozambican nationalism, Mario Coluna brought to the attention of the four corners of the globe the existence of a place called Mozambique”
“Mozambicans are weeping because henceforth they can no longer witness the exemplary experience of one of the greatest stars of Mozambican football beyond our borders”, he said.
The current President of the FMF, Feizal Sidat, said that Coluna had been a beacon for all those who hoped to see a brighter future for Mozambican football, while tributes were also paid by representative of Benfica and of the Portuguese Football Association.