The maracana, another football from the Ivory Coast

A small goal, no goalkeeper and a field the size of a handball: in Côte d’Ivoire, some dream of seeing the famous maracana, a type of six-a-side football born on campus fifty years ago ago, become an Olympic sport.

In an empty lot, on the edge of the Ebrié lagoon in Abidjan, young people dribble in the sand, two tires serving as an improvised goal. The reduced size of the pitch and the goal force the players to combine strategy and precision, enough to make the maracana, named after the famous stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the perfect practice for eleven-a-side football .

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Among the youngest members of the Xenox club in Treichville, an amateur football team “traditional” of this district of Abidjan, training at the maracana is a compulsory passage every week.

“When you want to teach a child to play football, the basis for me is the maracana”underlined Adama Ira, teaching a group of youths from Xenox. “Young people work more on conservation and pressing techniques. When the child is used to supporting this pressure, the big field has no more secrets for him »added club president Seydou Badjan Traoré.

“Separate Disciplines”

Although it is impossible to precisely date the invention of the maracana, experts in this popular sport believe that the rules were born in the 1970s on campuses in Côte d’Ivoire. At that time, students struggled to make enough friends and have suitable pitches for playing football.

From constraint are born single rules: “The maracana is played six against six, without a goalkeeper and on a field the size of handball”, summarizes Charlemagne Bleu, president of the International Federation of this sport.

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In the stands of the multipurpose hall of the Treichville sports park, the president proudly watches his national team train. At the end of September in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire won for the eighth time – in nine editions – the Mara’CAN, the African Cup of Nations for the maracana.

For Charlemagne Bleu, who works for greater recognition in the discipline, the stakes are high. “Maracana is not football, it is a separate discipline. Our goal is to make it an Olympic discipline.”, he says. According to him, seventy-two countries in four continents have a federation of this discipline.

Players between 35 and 45 years old

Another particularity: it gives pride to elders. In Mara’CAN, Africa’s premier competition, players must be between 35 and 45 years old, an age often synonymous with retirement from football.

“Young people [15-34 ans] have their national championship in the maracana but, in general, they remain more attracted to football. There are more seniors because they can no longer play football, so they turn to maracana”explained Charlemagne Bleu.

Some high-level footballers offer themselves an extension of their career, like Issouf Koné, 40 years old. “Like many of my teammates, I played a high level of professional football, so the transition was not too difficult. We plunged back into the maracana so as not to lose the thread of sport and especially football,” explained one who played his fourth Mara’CAN in the Ivorian national team. “Now, to become a football professional, it has become very difficult that I think the maracana is a platform that can help many young people”, He added.

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The World with AFP

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