by Philip Richards

Women’s Rugby – a “Try for Change”
In recent years, the game of rugby union is increasingly being embraced and professionalized across the world by women. Led by the Tanzania Rugby Union (TRU), the men’s game in Tanzania has been played and has grown for many years, and now the women of the country want to get in on the act.

The person leading the charge is Fatma El-kindiy who is from Botswana where she contributed to the development of the women’s game there. El-kindiy had originally visited Tanzania to see her mother but relocated permanently in June 2021 and admits she first contacted the Tanzania Rugby Union (TRU) because she “didn’t have anything else to do” when she first arrived.

Fatma El-kindiy at a training session – Photo Women in Rugby

Back in Botswana she became an advocate for the benefits the oval-ball game could provide young women and girls and helped to devise a programme, ‘A Try for Change’, to help encourage more women and young girls in the country to pick up a rugby ball. The success of the programme contributed to El-kindiy becoming an ‘Unstoppable’ in Botswana, part of a role model campaign by Rugby Africa to fast track women’s rugby across the continent. When she moved to Dar es Salaam she was keen to have a similar impact on female participation in Tanzania. She now has a new goal: to field Tanzania’s first women’s national team, and this year a women’s team has been invited to participate in a Burundi Women’s Day tournament involving 6 nations from East and Central Africa.

The TRU had struggled to grow interest in female participation and so when they received the phone call from El-kindiy, they were only too happy to accept her offer of help. She has since become head of development for women’s rugby and set about increasing opportunities for and interest in women playing the game. One area where interest has ignited is Ukonga, in Illala District of Dar es Salaam Region. There, with the help of coach Denis Lipiki, El-kindiy has found a growing group of women who are keen to learn how to play the game. From an initial squad of 7, there are now training sessions for 25 young women up to three times a week with sessions starting as early as 6am.The majority of these new players are aged between 18 and 20, however, El-kindiy says there is one “determined” squad member who is only 13.
She sees the potential and is confident of attracting players beyond Ukonga, from across Tanzania. Requests have been sent to men’s clubs around the country in the hope that they will continue to offer those women opportunities to play beyond the tournament. Beyond that, El-kindiy is also planning to roll out ‘A Try for Change’ in Tanzania and hopes to convince schools to offer girls an opportunity to play as part of their curriculums. (Women in Rugby 10/8/22)

Boston Marathon

Gabriel Geay (right) with Evans Chebet (the eventual winner) at the Boston Marathon – photo @gabrielgeraldgeay

Gabriel Geay, one of the country’s top marathon distance runners, crossed the finish line in a creditable second place at the 126th running of the Boston Marathon in the USA. He clocked a time of 2:06:04 just 10 seconds behind the Kenya winner Evans Chebet who defended his title. Geay was also ahead of Ugandan and twice Olympic Champion Eluid Kipchoge who surprisingly faded in sixth position. President Samia Suluhu Hassan was swift to congratulate the athlete as evidence of the improvement of athletics in the country based upon a history of world class long distance runners. (Daily News)

Football – AFCON Update
After beating their East African opponents by the same score a few days previously at Suez Canal Stadium in Ismailia, Egypt, the national men’s team Taifa Stars conceded a late goal to lose 1-0 to Uganda Cranes at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

The visitors scored a stoppage time winner to make the qualification race for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals even tighter. The result means that both Taifa Stars and Uganda are tied on 4 points in Group F with two matches remaining to play. The Stars welcome Niger early in June in a “must win” encounter for the home side.

This was only the first defeat for Stars Head Coach Adel Amrouche at the helm of the team, and the country still has a chance to qualify for the AFCON finals to be hosted by Ivory Coast. Algeria top the group and have already made it through to the finals in 2024. (Daily News)


by Philip Richards

“Serengeti Girls” under 17 national team record historic victory

Christer Bahera in the Tanzanian U17 football team “Serengeti Girls” during their win over France (Photo @FIFAWWC).

Tanzania’s under-17 women’s national football team, known as the “Serengeti Girls”, shocked the football World in October when they beat France 2-1 at the U17 World Cup finals in India. The match was played at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao, Goa.

Serengeti Girls’ goals were scored by Diana Mnally in the 16th minute and Christer Bahera who scored second from the spot in 56th minute.

Marking the first appearance by any team representing Tanzania at a FIFA tournament, Serengeti Girls lost their opening match 4-0 to Japan. Then followed their victory over France and a 1-1 draw with Canada in the final group game. This was enough to see them qualify for the quarter-finals, where they were overpowered 3-0 by a strong Colombia side, with two Tanzanian players shown red cards during the game.

The players received a heroic reception when they landed back in Tanzania after the tournament.

Their coach Bakari Shime believes their success in India could be a turning point in a country where the female game is yet to be widely accepted. “Reaching the quarter-finals is a huge achievement in our history and in our country,” he told BBC Sport. “We hope that this tournament will increase support in Tanzania.”

In 2021, Tanzania’s first female President Samia Suluhu Hassan drew criticism after saying the country’s female footballers had “flat chests” and were unattractive for marriage.


by Philip Richards

Commonwealth Games and World Athletics Championships

Tanzania’s delegation of 17 athletes who participated in the 22nd Commonwealth Games must have felt very much at home in the heat of the British summer, and left Birmingham with 1 silver and 2 bronze medals for their efforts. This was hailed as a success as it was the country’s first medals since the 2006 Games. Alphonce Felix Simbu earned the silver medal in the men’s marathon event behind the winner Victor Kiplangat of Uganda. Simbu’s time of 2:12:29 was 1:34 behind the Ugandan, and 47 seconds in front of third place Kenyan Michael Githae. For the East African region as a whole, the 1-2-3 positioning once again shows its continued dominance in this event. The two bronze medals were well earned in the boxing by Kassim Mbundwike (Light Middleweight) and Yusuf Lucasi Changalawe (Light Heavyweight).

Serengeti Girls under-17 women’s team qualify for World Cup

Tanzania was also represented in judo, para-lifting and swimming. Tanzanian athletes now look forward to the 23rd Games in Victoria, Australia, in 2026 where they will hope to build on their success. The country was less successful at the 2022 Athletics World Championships held in Oregon, US. The small delegation of 2 took part in the men’s marathon where Gabriel Geay finished 7th.

Tanzania have confirmed their joint bid with Uganda to host the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations men’s football tournament (africafootball. com 24/6/2022) and plan to offer four stadium venues should they be successful.
Positive news on the pitch in the women’s game, where the under-17 women’s national team Serengeti Girls (picture above) have secured a place at the 2022 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup scheduled for October 11 to 30 in India. They have drawn Japan, Canada and France in Group D (The Citizen). We wish them well in their preparations and will report back on their endeavours in a future edition of TA.


by Ben Taylor

Taifa Stars fall short in World Cup qualifying
The national men’s football team, Taifa Stars, fell agonisingly short of winning their qualifying group for the FIFA 2022 World Cup. After an impressive 1-0 away win against Benin and a 1-1 draw away at DR Congo in earlier matches, Tanzania led the group going into the final two matches in November 2021. However, a disappointing 3-0 home defeat to DR Congo in the penultimate match left the Stars with only a slim chance of qualifying, and results of the final matches did not go their way.

Winger Saimon Msuva, at times deputising for the team’s sole international star, Mbwana Samatta, as striker, delivered three goals in six qualifying matches. This result means Taifa Stars have narrowly missed out on qualifying for two major tournaments in 2021. In March the team finished third in their qualifying group for the Cup of African Nations, after conceding a goal in the 90th minute away to Equatorial Guinea.

Tanzanian athletes return empty handed from Tokyo
Tanzania sent a team of three competitors to the 2020 Olympics, held in Tokyo in July-August 2021. All three were marathon runners, two in the men’s race – Gabriel Gerald Geay and Alphonce Felix Simbu – and one in the women’s race – Failuna Matanga. Matanga finished in 24th position, while Simbu finished in a highly creditable 7th place. In very difficult running conditions (due to heat), Geay was one of 30 runners in the men’s race who did not complete the course.


by Philip Richards

Athletics at the Tokyo Olympics
Tanzania was represented at the Tokyo Olympic Games, held from July 23 to August 8 this year, by only three athletes, who unfortunately returned home without medals. It has been 40 years since the nation last stood on the podium (the Moscow 1980 Games when two silvers were won) and at that time Tanzania sent 41 athletes in total.

In Tokyo, all three athletes participated in the marathon. Alphonce Simbu was placed seventh in the men’s marathon (2:11:35) whilst Gabriel Gerald Geay did not finish the race, The third and only female Tanzanian athlete, Failuna Abdi Matanga (2:33:58) was placed 24th in the women’s race.

By contrast, other East African nations fared much better. Kenyan participants won four Gold, four Silver and two Bronze medals, while the Ugandans won two Gold, one Silver and one Bronze medal.

The obvious observation, echoed by the media (including The Citizen 17/8/21) is that this situation poses some “difficult questions”. Is there a coherent sports policy in the country and is it being implemented effectively, is there an effective funding mechanism for sports and do sports officials have the management capability to effectively identify and harness the talent in the country?

Clearly, short term expectations need to be managed, and hopes of success at the next Paris Games in three years’ time seem unlikely to be realised, but long term and focused investment in sport (other than football) is undoubtedly required.

Taifa Stars, the national men’s team, have climbed up six positions in the latest world rankings released by the Federation of International Football Association (reports Daily News 13/8/21)

The leap has been attributed to Taifa Stars recent victory over Malawi Flames. Under Danish coach Kim Poulsen, they emerged with a 2-0 victory. Though this was only an international friendly match, hopes are for further victories in official competitions.

The latest ranking places Taifa Stars 135th globally, 39th in Africa. As a comparison, Senegal are ranked number 1 in Africa and 21st globally. They now head to face Congo DR (ranked 65th) and Madagascar (97th) next month in the World Cup Qualifiers-Africa (WQA) on the road to the finals in Qatar in 2022.

Tanzania’s albinos set sights on Paralympics

People with albinism practice karate at a local club in Dar es Salaam – Xinhua/East Africa Today

Deogratias Ngonyani, a 33-year-old man with albinism, is a regular visitor to the karate training room at the Albinism Sports Club in the capital Dar es Salaam.

As well as keeping fit, he says his ambition is to participate in the Paralympic Games within the next five years, proving to the world that with determination, people with albinism could break through into international competition. The Club, which has 11 albino members, also provides opportunities to be coached and compete in football and athletics.

Mr Ngonyani was quoted as saying: “At the moment our chance of participating in international sports competition is very slim, and Tanzania’s albinos have never participated in such competitions”

Over the years, people in Tanzania with albinism have been subjected to discrimination and brutality, driven by the belief that their body parts possess and can transmit magical powers. However, the government has recently pledged to provide full protection of people with albinism by reinforcing their security; it was reported that Ummy Hamisi Nderiananga, the deputy minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for persons with disabilities, said people with albinism should feel safe because their protection remained the government’s priority agenda. (EA News)


by Philip Richards

The distinctive yellow and green “Yanga building” in Jangwani during recent floods

The rise and fall (and rise again) of sporting venues
Two stories of contrasting fortunes illustrate the balance of future opportunities and current challenges of sports development in Tanzania, but on this occasion the focus is on infrastructure rather than the sportsmen and sportswomen.

On a positive note, as reported in the Daily News (2/10/20) a new National Indoor Arena indoor arena has been announced in Dodoma which as well as football will aim to accommodate and benefit other sports such as hockey, volleyball, boxing and basketball. The construction of the stadium is also symbolic recognition that the capital city should host a prominent sporting facility which will leapfrog the Benjamin Mkapa stadium in Dar es Salaam in terms of size. It will also boost the nation’s chances of attracting a large competition such as the AFCON with the economic benefits that would bring. Despite these opportunities, commentators note that development of infrastructure has to be accompanied by investment in skills and success both in terms of sportsmen and women but also in terms of football experts such as coaches.

Compare this to tale of Jangwani Grounds. An area in Dar es Salaam of about 400,000 square meters that was once a home of over 20 football pitches, accommodating more than two thousand spectators at one go, now looks more like a swamp – a flood zone thanks to environmental degradation and effects of climate change (as reported by The Citizen 7/11/2020). Jangwani was once seen as a local hub for talent where Dar es Salaam boys and others from upcountry who played football could go to Jangwani Grounds to showcase their talents in a bid to attract the attention of big clubs. However, the pollution of the River Msimbazi together with overpopulation and unplanned settlement has led to the demise of those nostalgic days. Still, hope remains. While football enthusiasts are complaining about the loss of their football pitches, the Ilala Municipal Council through the support from World Bank is planning to return Jangwani Grounds to former glory but this time with modernization with an investment of USD 105m. We look forward to reporting good news on the progress of this project in future TA editions.

TA126 reported on the news that English Premier League club Aston Villa had completed an £8.5m deal for the 27-year-old Tanzanian international captain Mbwana Samatta from the Belgium club Genk. At the time, Aston Villa were struggling to retain their place in the English Premier League and had great hopes for the Tanzanian striker. Despite making a promising start including a goal in the Carabao Cup final meaning the first Tanzanian to score at Wembley, that was one of only two goals for the club and he struggled for form when the Premier League restarted in June. Whilst Aston Villa escaped relegation from the Premier League, Samatta has joined Turkish Club, Fenerbahce on 12-month loan (as reported by The Citizen 25/9/2020).

Better news for success overseas comes in the form of Novatus Dismas, the Azam FC midfielder, who has signed for Israeli giants Maccabi Tel Aviv. As Israeli envoys to the UEFA Champions League, we hope to report on further success for Novatus wearing the Maccabi shirt.


by Philip Richards

Covid-19 impact on sport
As expected, Covid-19 has had a major impact on sports activity within the country. In mid-March, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa suspended all sporting events for 30 days as part of a joint East African approach to containing the virus (The Citizen 18/3/20).

Tanzanian Premier League
At the time of writing, it is reported that no decision has yet been made on if and when the Vodacom Premier League season will resume once the current 30 days suspension of activity expires (The Guardian 18/4/20) though one possibility being considered by the Tanzania Premier League Board is that matches will recontinue but behind closed doors (The Guardian 19/3/20). At the point of suspension of the league, Simba SC were 17 points clear of second placed Azam FC, despite a 1-0 defeat to Young Africans (Yanga) who sit in third place (The Citizen 9/3/20).

Tanzanian star joins Aston Villa

Publicity photograph to celebrate the arrival of Tanzanian Mbwana Samatta at Aston Villa football club (N. Williams/AVFC)

At the beginning of this year, the country had reason for great pride when English Premier League club Aston Villa completed an £8.5m deal for the 27-year-old Tanzanian international captain Mbwana Samatta from the Belgium club Genk, the first Tanzanian to play in the Premier League [see cover photo].

Samatta began his career in humble beginnings at Mbagala Market in the Tanzanian Second Division when he was 17 years old where he was unpaid, before moving onto African Lyon and then attracting the attention of the country’s biggest club Simba SC. His international career took off with a move to Congolese club TP Mazembe where Samatta won four successive domestic titles and lifted the 2015 Africa Champions League, before securing a big time move to Europe with Genk in January 2016.

Aston Villa, currently struggling to retain their place in the English Premier League, looked to Samatta to replace an injured striker. He made his debut in the club’s Carabao Cup semi-final win against Leicester City and followed up with his first goal in the Premier League

– the first ever Tanzanian to score in the Premier League. The goal was a header during their 2-1 win at Bournemouth and was followed up with another (diving) header in the Carabao Cup Final against Manchester City; this kept Villa in the final, and although Samatta ended up on the losing side that day, he earned the additional honour of being the first Tanzanian to score at Wembley (reported in The Guardian (UK) 28/2/20).

As the UK is hit by Covid-19 and their football season comes to a halt, the last few months must have felt like a rollercoaster for Samatta. Although he has made a positive impact at Villa, the original race to sign him from Genk included several clubs including Galatasaray; it is reported that the Turkish club may still be interested in capturing Samatta depending upon the outcome of Aston Villa’s fortunes this season and whether they retain their Premier League status (as reported in Sport Witness 29/3/20).

Samatta’s signing by Aston Villa has attracted widespread excitement within Tanzania, where the Premier League remains immensely popu­lar. He has been described as the county’s “topmost unofficial diplomat, selling Tanzania abroad”, and bars up and down the country were crammed with viewers when Villa matches were broadcast on TV. A few Tanzania fans made it to Villa Park and Wembley to watch their hero. And there have been reports of Villa fan websites and social media pages facing an avalanche of messages from fans in Tanzania – expressing their support for Samatta and for Aston Villa, and, on occasion, bemoaning the inability of his teammates to create good opportunities for him to score.

Kelvin John, hoping to follow in Mbwana Samatta’s footsteps

One to watch out for, and closely following in the footsteps of Samatta, is young talent Kelvin John, who is hoping to join Samatta’s old club Genk next year after successful trials. The 17 year old John, who counts Samatta as an “elder brother” clearly wishes to emulate the Tanzanian captain’s success in Europe, and further highlight the profile of Tanzanian football overseas (The Citizen 21/1/20).

Athletics and the Olympics
It is being reported that the postponement of this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games to the summer of 2021 has been called a “blessing in disguise” for Tanzania’s athletes by Tanzania Olympic Committee Secretary General, Filbert Bayi (Daily News 25/3/20). At the time of postponement only two Tanzanian athletes, Alphonce Simbu and Failuna Matanga had qualified for the Games for the marathon event, so there is now further opportunity for other athletes to meet the qualification criteria. As well as athletics, Bayi cited boxing, judo and volleyball and being the disci­plines that are being targeted, and that preparations for qualification will resume once the current suspension of competitive sport due to Covid-19 is lifted.


by Philip Richards

Taifa Stars disappoint at AFCON 2019
The national team’s appearance at the AFCON finals in Egypt failed to live up to optimistic expectations as they went crashing out at the first-round stage conceding 7 goals and only scoring two, the latter com­ing in their 3-2 defeat to rivals Kenya. Team captain Mbwana Samatta conceded that “our best is not good enough. We still have a long way to go. It’s not good enough at all for this level.” Other well-known com­mentators such as ex-South African international Shaun Bartlett was quoted (Daily News, 5/7/19) as saying that too many defensive mistakes were made and that the team need to learn how to re-group quickly after losing the ball. Despite having little time to prepare – a 20 team domestic league was still competing up to the end of May and there was only one pre-AFCON friendly – the axe fell swiftly on coach Emmanuel Amunike shortly after the Stars’ exit from the tournament. Tanzanian Football Federation held an emergency meeting to announce Etienne Ndayiragije, the Burundian coach of Azam FC, to take up the role on an interim basis.

Tokyo Olympics 2020

The Tanzania Olympic Committee (TOC) and the Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Japanese city of Nagai to host Team Tanzania in preparing for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Japanese city will provide various training facilities and programmes. However, it was reported (Daily News, 2/8/19) that this is as “wake up call” for Tanzanian athletes to earn qualification for the Games as only a small number have already done so.


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

Mbwana Ally Samatta being interviewed after the AFCON finals

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


by Philip Richards


Tanzania national side “Kilimanjaro Queens”, pictured in Uganda in
2016 (Fufa)

Reflecting the rapid rise of women’s football globally, Tanzania is no exception. Whilst the men of Taifa Stars languish in the lower reaches of the FIFA rankings, the women of Kilimanjaro Queens are making some headlines. The team that represents mainland women’s football has made the news recently after some high-profile tournament wins including the CECAFA Women Challenge cup, a regional five-nation tournament that was played on a round-robin format in Kigali, Rwanda. The win earned the plaudits of President John Magufuli and the team now move onto the inaugural East African Community Games which starts mid-August in Bujumbura, Burundi with the Queens opening their campaign with a fixture against Kenya. (Daily News).

On the men’s front, Dar based Simba FC won the mainland Premier League in May despite losing 0-1 to Kagera Sugar in the final game. The Citizen reported that the trophy was handed over by President Magufuli who was visiting the National Stadium to attend a sporting event for the first time since he became President.

Simba football club with trophy (

At national level, Taifa Stars have a new head coach in former Nigeria winger Emmanuel Amuneke as the new head coach of the national team. His first competitive game in charge of the senior Taifa Stars will be their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uganda in September. The latest FIFA rankings places them at 140th in the world, with Tunisia the highest ranked African team (24th) and France owning top spot. Amuneke, 47, replaces local coach Salum Mayanga who had been in charge of Tanzania since last year. (BBC Sport website).