Friday Aug 16, 2019. 10:17
Angola’s GiraBola celebrates its 40th anniversary as its kicks off a new season on Friday with the opening game in the southern city of Lubango as Desportivo Huíla host FC Bravos do Maquis.
Huila were the sensation of the last campaign as they finished a club high third but were still well off the top two — Primeiro Agosto and Petro Atletico — who have been the dominant forces in the league’s long history and are expected to continue that hegemony.
Primero, who finished ahead of long-standing rivals Petro, start against Progresso Sambizanga but their opening match has been postponed because the army club’s Serbian coach Dragan Jovic asked for extra time to prepare for their African Champions League duel against KKM of Zanzibar.
Petro, also participating in the same competition, are back from Lesotho, where they beat Matlama 2-0 last weekend in the first leg of their first round tie, and will play newcomers Willete in Benguela on Saturday.
Another two-way tussle is anticipated between Primeiro, who have won the last four GiraBola titles, and Petro, who have been runners-up on each occasion. Petro are now coached by Toni Cosano, a 42-year-old from Barcelona with little previous experience at this level.
Last year’s success brought the soldiers their 13th title overall, pushing them closer to Petro’s record 15 championships.
This year’s championship features 16 teams from 10 different provinces, ensuring as much more national feel to the league than in its early days when dominated by clubs from the capital and Benguela because of the limitations of travel in the rest of a country mired in a civil war.
This season clubs come from Luanda (Primeiro Agosto, Petro Atletico, InterClube and Progresso Sambizanga), Benguela (Academica Lobito, Premieiro Maio and Williete), Cabinda (Sporting), Uíge (Santa Rita de Cássia), Huambo (Recreativo Caála and Ferroviario Huambo), Huila (Desportivo), Cuanza-Sul (Recreativo Libolo), Lunda-North (Sagrada Esperança), Moxico (FC Bravos do Maquis) and Cuando Cubango (Cuando Cubango FC).
Financial uncertain casts a cloud over this year’s competition with Benfica Lubango already replaced by rookies Williete in the field because they can no longer afford to participate in the league.
Kabuscorp Palanca have also been forcibly relegated to the second tier on orders of FIFA after failing to pay money owed to Brazilian superstar Rivaldo, who had a brief spell at the club after a high profile publicity stunt but was never paid.