by Philip Richards
National football team through to AFCON 2019 finals
The national team, Taifa Stars, led by captain Mbwana Samatta (see article below) reached the finals of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2019 finals later this year by securing a superb 3-0 win over the Uganda Cranes in front of a packed home crowd at the National Stadium, Dar es Salaam. This is the first time they have reached the finals of a major competition since 1980. In attendance at the game was President Magufuli who lauded the team’s efforts as part of the post-match celebrations (see picture below).
Goals from Simon Msuva, Erasto Nyomi and Aggrey Morris ensured that they achieved second spot in the qualifying group, behind Uganda Cranes themselves, who will join Taifa Stars in Egypt for the 24-team final stages taking place between 21 June and 19 July.
They have been drawn in Group C at the finals, and will compete with Algeria, Senegal and Kenya for a second-round berth.
More broadly, Tanzania has recently moved up 6 places in the FIFA global rankings to 131st. We wish the team every success in the finals in the summer, and hope to report further positive news in the next edition.
Captain leads by example – on and off the field
At 26 years of age, Mbwana Ally Samatta is one of the few Tanzanian footballers to make it in Europe, currently playing as striker for Belgian side Genk and captaining Tanzania’s national team, (reports BBC Sport website (6/11/18)). Having moved to Genk from Congolese side TP Mazembe in 2016, the number 10, who started his career with Simba SC, has become a positive influence both on and off the field in Tanzania.
On the field, he has recently led his country to their first AFCON finals for 28 years (see previous article). However, he has also been voted Tanzania’s most influential young person, encouraging young aspiring sportspeople to focus on education and schooling as well as cultivating their talent.
Samatta has registered 57 goals in 142 games for the Belgian club across four seasons, and with 20 goals thus far is currently the top-scorer in the Belgian top league in the 2018-2019 season. Genk look likely to win the league and earn automatic qualification for Champions League football next season.
His future may lie elsewhere, however, as Samatta has reportedly attracted the interest of larger European clubs, including Cardiff City, Leicester City and Everton of the English Premier League. We will watch his development and proud representation of his country abroad with great interest.
A short video of Samatta being interviewed is available on the BBC Sport website at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/africa/46030892.