• April 16, 2024
  • Last Update April 16, 2024 4:29 PM
  • Nairobi

Kenya MUST approach football the Tanzania way or Perish

Kenya MUST approach football the Tanzania way or Perish

Thursday,28 March,2024

McCreadie Andias,

Tanzania has made incredible strides in their football upgrading to a level that Kenya or any other East African country can only imagine of achieving.

The Tanzanian Premier League (TPL) has grown to be one of the biggest leagues in Africa outside the traditional giants over the last decade. While neighboring countries like Kenya and the DRC have seen their clubs and leagues struggling, the TPL has been going in the other direction.

In 2023, the Tanzanian Premier League was named the fifth strongest league in Africa and 38th strongest in the world in a release by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS).The revelation was an indicator of the way the league has risen, and an indictment of how Uganda and Kenya’s football leagues have moved backward.

There has also been gradual improvement at the national level where Taifa Stars, the country’s senior men’s national team, continues to improve in the face of international competitions. For This East African nation — continental football minnows for ages — the climb up the FIFA ladder has been commendable even as its neighbors have dropped 10 to 20 places during the same period. And all this from a country that used to be 156 in 2016 to 119 in 2024.While Uganda is now ranked 95 and Kenya 111, Tanzania represented the region at the just concluded AFCON 2023 that took place in January 2024 in Cote d’Ivoire.

Although they were knocked out at the group stages, they made their home fans proud for being the only team from the CECAFA (Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations) region to participate in the 2024 AFCON edition.

The newfound enthusiasm for the game is expected to soar further with the country set to host the tournament, along with Kenya and Uganda, after four years.

“Since my visit to Tanzania last year, the progress of football here is there for all to see,” Infantino said after the October 20 match. “I have been keenly discussing the game’s development with Tanzania Football Federation president Wallace Karia”

Tanzanian has not just made these incredible marks out of nothing but they have put in alot of work in both their domestic league to their international football something has has begin to pay off leaving Kenya and other East African countries in awe.

To start with, Strategic Planning and Development Programs have geared their football level foward especially in the domestic level. Tanzania may have implemented more effective grassroots development programs and coaching initiatives to nurture young talent and improve the overall quality of football at all levels.

The TPL is well situated for growth as a league thanks to the size of Simba and Yanga clubs. Despite playing in a relatively mediocre league in Africa, with no continental pedigree, both have cultivated committed fan bases.This is in part due to the significance of the clubs, both geographically and historically.

Both clubs were founded in the 1930s in the biggest city in Tanzania and were involved in the fight for Tanzanian independence.Both clubs continue to maintain those links to their fan bases. Before the season kicks off the clubs individually carry out a week’s celebration of the club and their communities.

They carry out various charitable events in the city before hosting an exhibition match with an invited foreign team, filling out their shared stadium.They are both fan-owned clubs, using the 50+1 model of ownership found in the German Bundesliga.

In the last decade they have both brought in strong corporate shareholders who have rapidly professionalised the clubs. The combination of fan involvement and professionalisation have lead to the clubs rapidly growing, both on the pitch and commercially. This is a really commendable step that Kenyan football Federation can emulate.

The local Government has been very Supportive to domestic and international football through significant Policies and Reforms. The Tanzanian government has implemented policies and initiatives to support the development of football, such as funding programs, tax incentives for sponsors, and regulations promoting youth participation.Also, the government has Invested in football Infrastructure and Facilities. The iconic state-of-the-art Benjamin Mkapa Stadium with a 60,000 capacity seater and well equipped facilities has proved great Sucess in sporting infrastructure.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan says she is passionate about growth of sports and has been an active stakeholder in the game’s growth — rewarding teams for winning matches and even referring to football during parliamentary debates.

Kenya needs better football infrastructure that can meet international standards. The Nyayo and Kasarani stadium have been used for more than three decades and need proper renovation supporting better game conditions.

The rise of Tanzanian players in the international game has helped attract more sponsors and investors. A number of Tanzanian players have recently made their mark on the international stage, such as Mbwana Samatta and Simon Msuva. Samatta, The country’s most famous football export and their national skipper now turns up for Greek giants POAK FC following stints at Aston Villa, Fenerbahce, Antwerp and Genk.Compatriot Novatus Miroshi, 21, is a Shakhtar Donetsk player and the youngest Tanzanian ever to play in the Champions League.Such international exposures have helped to raise the profile of the Tanzanian League and attract more fans and sponsors.Kenya has also exported great players Like Michael Olunga, Victor Wanyama and Mcdonald Mariga but exposing more youthful talent is a long-term benefit to attracting international attention.

Investment in Football is integral part to the Sucess of the sport , Football cannot thrive without good money being flushed in. Here, Better marketing and promotion is a better way to create investment because most of the revenues comes from endorsement deals and TV Rights.

The Tanzanian League has been more successful in marketing and promoting itself to fans and sponsors.

The league has a strong social media presence, and it has been able to attract sponsorship from major brands.

The expansion of the two major sides Simba and Yanga, has also come in conjunction with investment from Azam, one of the biggest broadcasters in East Africa. The company has pumped resources and energy into the competition, bringing many of the clubs into the modern era. Azam airs every match extensively around a country more than seven times the size of England.

They even installed floodlights at all the clubs in the Premier League, allowing for night-time games to be played.What is most impressive though, is Azam’s coverage, particularly their coverage of the Kariakoo derby.

“It’s something to rival Sky Sports and the way they cover the Manchester derby, they’ll do it for up to two weeks pre-match… they’ll speak to everyone, even to the security guards [at the team hotels],” says Salim Masoud Said, a UK based Tanzanian football consultant, commentator and writer.

Their broadcasting isn’t restricted to Tanzania either. Because they are the sole rights holders of the Premier League, Azam broadcasts, via app and online, around the world.

“Now you can watch the Premier League wherever you go, I’ve watched it on the tube, even at weddings.” adds Salim.

The Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) president Moses Magogo believes Tanzania’s broadcasting satellite company Azam’s willingness to broadcast its own league has had a huge impact in growing Tanzania’s league.

“I think what Tanzania had, the opportunity they got is that they developed local investment in local pay television, that is Azam that took the mantle and decided to produce and put their leagues to the fans.”Magogo said in a TV interview.

Magogo says South African broadcasting company Supersport, which broadcasted both the Ugandan and Kenyan topflight leagues at some point, also aired European matches unlike Azam, which attracted fans to start following European leagues rather than invest into their own clubs.

“It did not happen here in Kenya and Uganda.Instead, both countries brought in Supersport which introduced the foreign leagues, so it became a competition between the international leagues and the local leagues which is better marketed worldwide with the best players, best cameras, which took the fans away from supporting what is locally theirs.”

“In Tanzania, you struggle to watch the Premier League in Tanzania, but they are good inspiration. Yet when you see all three teams compete head to head, they are all almost at the same level, but sportingly, we are not yet far stretched.“

As federations and governments, we need to go back to the basics. For us in Uganda, what we have done since we do not have local investment like Azam is doing, as a federation we have decided to do our own television and it is possible.”

FUFA introduced its own broadcasting channel having borrowed a leaf from Tanzania , and Magogo hopes that it will put Uganda’s league on the African map in five years.

“We have seen how it is working, the impact it is making and believe in the next five years, we will be able to make our sales , club sales, big sponsors make a lot more money than we are making and when we get the money, we have the talent.”

Speaking football investment, Broadcaster Azam TV this recently renewed their license to be the main broadcaster for the next ten years in a deal worth Tsh225.6 billion (£744,000 thousand), something unprecedented in East Africa.

Money has to flowing into the game for Sucess to be seen.

The Tanzanian league’s title sponsor, NBC Bank, recently signed a five-year sponsorship deal worth 32.6 billion shillings.In 2021, the league inked a 10-year television broadcasting rights contract for 225.6 billion TZS. It also has a broadcast agreement with state radio, TBC, for 3 billion TZS.

With football now a rage in the country, club owners are investing billions to transform the game’s standard.Simba’s Mo Dewji has pumped in 6 billion TZS, while Yanga owner Gharib Said Mohamed has followed suit. As a result, the league’s valuation has shot up to 300 billion TZS.

According to Francis Kahata, a creative midfielder who has previous played in the Tanzanian League after joining Simba SC from Gor Mahia, the Tanzania Mainland League is currently better than the Football Kenya Federation Premier League. He believes that the pulling out of sponsors affected the Kenyan top-tier and that players feel like playing in their neighboring country.

“The Mainland League is rapidly developing,” Kahata, who currently plays for Police FC stated in a past interview.

“We used to have a better league back at home, Kenya, but since major sponsors pulled out, the quality went down a little.It is the reason why some people like us have come here to play football. There are other players back at home who are also watching us perform well in the league and want to come here as well.”

Kahata further explained how the 21-time league champions have helped in marketing their football.

“Simba have played a major role in helping market Tanzania football. They have done so by winning big games consistently,” Kahata said.

The Kenyan League is still a strong league, but it has not been able to keep up with the growth of the Tanzanian League in recent years. The Kenyan League needs to improve its marketing and promotion, and it needs to strengthen its clubs in order to compete with the Tanzanian League which has been more successful in marketing and promoting itself to fans and sponsors.

The league has a strong social media presence, and it has been able to attract sponsorship from major brands.

Kariakor or Dar derby, a clash between the two most storied clubs in Tanzania, Yanga SC and Simba SC, needs no introduction. It is safe to say the rivalry now ranks alongside great derbies in Africa such as Cairo, Casablanca and Soweto.FUFA president Moses Magogo further explained the importance of retaining local football traditional rivalry.

“For a league to be stong, there must be some traditional clubs that are rivals, and we had the Mashemeji derby which was good enough. In Uganda, we had the Villa-Express which was good enough.

“In Uganda, we have the Simba-Yanga and we are talking about the early 90s when these leagues were strong and appealing to local fans.”

The Yanga-Simba rivalry inflames passion and sparks an online race for dominance. Simba has over 4 million followers on Facebook, and Yanga has half of that.On the microblogging platform X, 1.4m fans follow Simba and 281,000 Yanga, while on Instagram, 5.5m vouch for Simba and 2.8m for their rivals. This high volume of fan engagement is attracting unprecedented levels of sponsorship.

Any clash between two local rivals and a sold-out stadium of 60,000 is guaranteed The two rivals are big fish in a small pond, but that pond has been expanded rapidly in recent years.

While neighbouring countries like Kenya and the DRC have seen their clubs and leagues struggling, the TPL has been going in the other direction.Ingwe faces an urgent crisis with declining gate collections, a winless streak, and a desperate plea to fans for support.

The 12-time KPL champions are facing an uphill battle early in the 2023/24 season as they grapple with a sharp decrease in gate collections. The club, led by Chairman Dan Skinada and its national executive committee, has issued a heartfelt plea to its dedicated fanbase for support in mobilization efforts to reverse this concerning trend.

In their recent clash against Muhoroni FC at the 60,000 seater Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani, AFC Leopards saw a staggering decline in attendance, with only 1,028 fans in the stands. Local fans have to emulate what happens in Tanzania, they have to fill stadiums and support their local teams.

The Tanzanian League has been more stable than the Kenyan League in recent years. There have been fewer disruptions to the league due to financial problems or political interference. This has made it more attractive for investors and sponsors.

Another Harambee stars player and former Azam FC midfielder Kenneth Muguna has also previously said the that Tanzanian Mainland Premier League is way better than the Kenyan Premier League.

“For now, the Tanzania League is more competitive than the Kenyan Premier League. Kenya has been out for a year or so (because of the FIFA suspension),” Muguna told a local radio show.

Kenya was readmitted into the international football community just recently after FIFA and CAF suspended them.The suspension came after the then Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Amina Mohamed, disbanded the Football Kenya Federation national executive committee and appointed a transitional body in its place.

The FKF president, Nick Mwendwa, was arraigned in court over allegations that he misused public funds. But when there was a regime change in Kenya, Ababu Namwamba was appointed as Amina’s successor, and he went on to ask FIFA to lift the suspension.

FIFA heeded and lifted it, and later, Mwendwa was cleared of the financial misappropriation charges.To Muguna, the suspension had a negative impact on Kenyan football, and this is one of the reasons why Tanzania overtook the Kenyan league.

“This (the suspension) affected the Kenyan league and brought the league and the national team down because we were not playing.“This is because I feel the Tanzanian league is very competitive and better than Kenya’s league,” added the former Western Stima star.

Transparency in the conduct of local and international football has played a bigger part in the development of Tanzanian football. The increased spotlight on the league has brought other benefits beyond the finances. Match fixing, once commonplace, is harder to carry out.

Salaries have not only improved but are being consistently paid on time. Match fixing has been a big disease in Kenyan football with players being involved in compromising results to gain money. This is contributed to low wages or delayed wages compelling them to opt for fixing matches.

Clubs in Tanzania have been able to make a footprint in the continental championships. Simba reached the quarterfinals of the CAF Confederation Cup last season.Simba have also been regular participants in the Champions League, while Yanga were last season’s finalists in the Confederation Cup. They were defeated by USM Alger of Algeria in the two-legged finals played in Tanzania and Algeria.

“Even if you look at the performance of the teams from both countries in the continental games, and even look at how the Tanzanian leagues are organized, it is way above the Kenyan one.”Kenneth Muguna said.

Most importantly though, players are now being seen and that attracts quality. This has in turn improved those teams which has been seen in continental performance.Previously, qualification for the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederations Cup would be considered an amazing achievement. But that narrative has been flipped.

Last season Simba’s failure to qualify for the Champions League, only making it to the Confederations Cup, is considered a failure and lead to the sacking of the head coach.Salim Masoud, a UK based Tanzanian football consultant, commentator and writer believes real progress is seen in continental competition.

“We underestimate how big these feats are [qualifying for the Champions League and Confederations Cup]. We have no right to be in the group stages really. Success for a team from Tanzania and East Africa is reaching the group stages. Because financially they cannot compete with the teams in South Africa and North Africa.”Salim said.

Simba, which has rapidly climbed to the 13th spot in the continent, is the country’s only representative in the African Champions League and made it to the quarterfinals in the 2023 /24 edition.

Simba and Yanga are the only East African teams in the CAF Champions League this season both making it to the quarters again.

As I mentioned before, Financial energy is the heart of Success in Football. Kenyan giants Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards have always struggled financially, and at times the players have had to stage go-slows when their salaries and allowances are not paid in time. But this is not the case in Tanzania, where financial crises are not as rampant as they have been in Kenya.

“They are also doing well, and players are paid very well and on time. I have not heard of any game where players are making noises that they have not been paid.

“In this regard, Tanzania have done very well,” Kenneth Muguna added.

According to statistics, Tanzania league is one of the few African leagues that pay the club personnel and especially footballers up to US$2 Million for their sign-on fee while some footballers earn close to US$10, 000. Their smart investment in players and ability to offer lucrative deals has seen a huge migration of players into the league in search for greener pastures.

Many local players have made an exodus from the local league as they have been lured to better deals in Tanzania. Former Tusker striker, the late Bernard Agunda was the first Kenyan player to try his hands in Tanzanian football in late 90’s when his exploits with the brewers led to him being signed by Dar Simba.Wekundu wa Msimbazi, as Simba are fondly known as, cast their nets wide in the Kenyan footballers market by signing Pascal Ochieng. About a decade later Bernard Mwalala, then a shining star at Nzoia Sugar, found a new abode in another popular Tanzanian club Young Africans (Yanga) alongside ex-Sofapaka scoring machine John Baraza.Coastal Union of Tanzania would also not be left behind as they brought on board Jerry Santos who previously played for Posta Rangers and then Gor Mahia back home in Kenya.

Not to be outdone. Money-bags Azam FC are also on record as having enjoyed the services of several Kenyan connections including Jockins Atudo, George “Blackberry” Odhiambo and Humphrey Mieno. Other Kenyans players who have had stints in Tanzania include Franis Kahata (ex Simba FC) and ex Azam midfielder Kenneth Muguna.

It’s little wonder then that recently , former Gor Mahia talismanic defender Joash “Berlin Wall”Onyango had his contract extended at Simba. Since he joined Simba from Kogalo, Onyango, has played an integral part of Simba and is one of the hopefuls in the club winning trophies.Although detailing what Onyango earns is personal and is not ethical to discuss it publicly, it is believed that he takes home about Sh 500,000 per month.

Kenyan coaches have also sought fortunes in Tanzania including the late James Sianga’ (Dar Simba), James Nandwa (ex-Coastal Union) and current Biashara FC coach Francis Baraza.

Football Awards in terms of prize money have helped clubs sustain their profits. At the end of the Tanzanian League season, each club that participated in the top tier league will pocket money depending on their ranking, according to the Tanzania Premier League Board.

Yanga SC bagged 600 million Tanzania shillings, an equivalent of 30 million Kenyan shillings, meant for the winners of the TPL as they won the last league championship.

The prize money is dished out to the participants courtesy of the league’s chief sponsors, broadcast partners Azam Media Limited and title sponsors National Bank of Commerce, the bigger chunk of the money coming from Azam Media Limited.

Tanzania Football federation President Wallace Karia is on record saying that the step is a big milestone in football development in the country as it helps clubs carry the financial burden in the league.

“It is a milestone in football development. TFF is struggling to reduce the burden for the clubs in order to feature in the league comfortably and give their best,” the President was once quoted as saying.

It is not a coincidence that the Tanzanian League can manage to share prize money across all the participating teams while we struggle back in Kenya to raise the prize money only for the winner, yet a couple of years back we were miles ahead of Tanzania on all fronts.

Last season champions Gor Mahia were not awarded with a prize money from KPL compelling Sport Pesa and Opposition leader Raila Odinga to come to the rescue.

By least, In Tanzania, football is entwined with the music industry. The likes of Ali Kiba and Diamond Platnumz attend matches and compose songs for the clubs.Songs have been dedicated to Mbwana Samatta, African Player of the Year 2016, and the first Tanzanian to play in the English Premier League.

Kenya needs to emulate the strategies employed by Tanzania to resurrect both its local or international football or else the game is on the brink of unforgiving embarrassment.

By McCreadie Andias,

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