FOR almost two weeks, Tanzania has been abuzz with stories surrounding its own son, Mbwana Samatta’s move to England which has finally come to pass with the player’s signing deal of four and half years.
Tanzania soccer fans’ second focus now is in the Aston Villa’s EPL match this coming weekend where they hope to see Samatta in action. Samatta knows the kind of expectations his fans at home, and Tanzanians in general pin on him.
All wanting and wishing him to live to his new club’s expectations just as he had done when he was playing for the Belgian club, Genk, where in his own words, he scored 76 goals and had 26 assists. Going by what his club wrote about him, Samatta (or Samagoal as the Belgian club’s fans liked to refer him as), was a highly respected player in Belgium.
Indeed, you don’t get the kind of accolades Samatta got from his former employers if you are a second rated player. And, this is one thing Tanzanian soccer players need to learn from their fellow player. As rightly noted by many Tanzanian journalists in their stories in their respective print and electronic media, Samatta’s bio has more than trebled.
This time he is not only the first Tanzanian soccer player to play and score in the UEFA Champions League; but he now becomes the first Tanzanian soccer player to play in the English Premier League, which many soccer pundits believe to be the best league in the World.
Samatta has been taken on board by one of the famous EPL clubs, but which is presently fighting against relegation. And, because the English club has had scoring problems, they think the Taifa Stars’ skipper can get them out of where they are in the league table at the moment through his deftness in scoring.
Indeed, it was his ability to turn most of the chances he had before opponents’ goals that enabled Samatta to take the Belgian club into UEFA Champions League. Historically, this is however, not the first time that a foreign soccer club in a very well, run soccer league signed a Tanzanian soccer player in order to do better in the league and even win it.
Tanzania soccer fans, sports journalists included, may probably not know this. But the first Tanzanian soccer player to play such a role was Kitwana Manara, better known during his playing days as Popat.
According to a book titled; Joe Kadenge: The Life of a Football Legend authored by a BBC Kenyan journalist, John Nene, Kitwana Manara was signed as a goalkeeper by Mombasa’s Feisal for two years, 1965 and 1966. By then Kitwana had the safest pair of hands between the goal posts in East and Central Africa.
Kitwana would go on to help Feisal become the first Mombasa club to win the newly formed Kenya National Football League (KNFL). When Feisal won the KNFL in 1965, Mombasa’s Liverpool which had earlier been tipped to win the inaugural league finished second, Luo Union third and Harambee Maseno finished fourth.
Apart from Kitwana, Feisal had three Kenyan internationals, Ahmed Breik, Badi Ali and Ali Kajo, who had the most lethal feet in the region.
Kitwana Manara says in the book, “I lived as a king earning 2,000 Kenyan shillings per months and living in a two bed-roomed house with a paid for cook. Kitwana says his employers used to buy him a return air ticket whenever he was recalled home to play for the Tanzania national soccer team.
Nene writes; ‘Kitwana now a businessman in Dar es Salaam says: “I was the first Tanzanian professional player. I joined Feisal in 1965, purely to play football. I signed a contract to be paid a monthly salary of 2,000 Kenyan shillings. I was living in a two bedroomed house at Mwembe Tayari with workers to cook for me and wash my clothes.”
Sunday Manara, Kitwana Manara’s young brother was the second Tanzanian soccer player to go professional. He was signed by Hercules in the Netherlands and Dutch club would later send him to a US soccer club on loan. Interestingly, the third Tanzanian soccer player was yet from another Manara family, Kassim who had honed his skills at the feet of Romanian coach, Professor Victor Stanculesus.
Manara was signed on by an Austrian club before he later left for an Italian club. And according to the former Pan Africans Secretary General, Salim Zaggar, Kassim Manara has since become an Italian national. But all in all, there are a lot of things to be learnt from the four Tanzanian soccer players, and in particular, Samatta, first by his own fellow Tanzanian soccer players.
Samatta got to where he is today mainly because of his attitudes. And the same thing could be said about Simon Msuva presently playing for a Moroccan club.
Tanzanian soccer players wishing to play professional soccer in Europe need to emulate Samatta, who is quoted to have long said that his ambition was to play in the English Premier League and the man has just done that!
Our players need to know that you can become what you want to be in life but if you have the right attitudes. Right attitudes guide you to get what you want. Wishing alone is however, not enough; because as they say, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride them.
Therefore, in order to succeed, a player who wants to get into top professional soccer ranks need to have the right attitudes. But if Samatta succeeds in replicating the kind of scoring form he reproduced in Belgian premier league, then he would have opened a floodgates for Tanzania soccer players to join him in the best paid soccer league in Europe.