Mbwana Samatta: The man taking Tanzanian football to greater heights
The Tanzanian national football team cannot be counted amongst the heavyweights of African football. The Taifa Stars, as they are lovingly called by their fans, have never participated in the prestigious FIFA World Cup and have managed to feature just once in the African Cup of Nations.
However, the passion that exists for the game in the country cannot be ignored and recently, the footballing fraternity was given a taste of how important the game is in the country when the nation decided to honour Tottenham Hotspurs’ Victor Wanyama’s achievements by naming a street after him.
While the majority of their team plies their trade in the African Leagues itself, there is one man who has moved across the great ocean in a bid to make a name for himself, Mbwana Ally Samatta.
Samatta was born in the city of Dar es Salaam on 13th December 1992 and started his youth career at African Lyon FC, where he rose rapidly through the ranks. However, he moved to his local club Simba SC in 2010 and it was there that he began his professional career. While he spent only one season at the club, it was a rather fruitful outing for the player as he raked in an impressive 13 goals in 25 appearances to attract the attention of one of the biggest clubs in Africa, TP Mazembe.
The then 19-year-old moved to the Republic of Congo in 2011 and the move has proven to be the stepping stone to the success he is currently enjoying. Over the next five years, the striker became a household name in not only Tanzania but across African owing to his exploits in the CAF Champions League and was crowned the best player in the African Leagues in January 2016, making him the first ever East African player to win the coveted trophy.
His ability to score goals at a consistent rate made him one of the most feared names in African football and the fact that he found the back of the net 60 times in his 103 appearances for Mazembe speaks volumes about his abilities.
However, like in the case of several other footballers, it was required that Samatta moved to a more competitive league in a bid to enhance his reputation and skill set and that opportunity arrived in the summer of 2016 when Belgian club KRC Genk decided to snap him up on a four and half year deal.
Style of play and strengths
While he was trained to be a centre-forward, his style of play thus far indicates that the Tanzanian international is better suited to the forward’s role.
Ever since he arrived in Belgium the 24-year-old striker has only further enhanced his reputation as one of the attackers to look out for owing to his abilities on and off the ball. He is very comfortable on the ball, loves to drop deep in a bid to regain possession and can drive past defenders without creating a great deal of fuss with his pace, power and low balance.
Off the ball, the player is always a nuisance to the opposition defenders as he is constantly looking at opportunities to break free and often drifts into small pockets of space to create opportunities for himself as well as his teammates. His ability to accelerate rapidly only further enhances the threat he brings to the pitch.
During his time in Belgium, Samatta has showcased an uncanny ability for finding the back of the net – scoring 21 times in 59 appearances for the club, two of which came in a crucial tie in the Europa League against cross country rivals KAA Gent. He knows where the back of the net is and has proven to be equally effective with either of his feet as well as his head.
Add to that his ability to create chances for his teammates (he assisted six goals during the 2016-17 season which is a rather good return for someone playing so high up in the field) and it is easy to understand why he has been making the transfer rumours column over the last few weeks.
While he might be a great asset going forward, there are certain aspects of his game that need fine-tuning and his passing is amongst them. While we agree that he is often passing in spaces that are often very tightly guarded, it has largely been observed that he can be careless with his passing and also has a tendency of picking the wrong pass.
Another aspect that he might need to work upon would be his physical frame. Samatta has been touted to move to the English shores and given the pace and physicality of the league, the striker will need to add to his physical frame so as to cope with the demands of the league.
The Tanzanian has been linked with a number of teams over the last few weeks with clubs from England, Italy, Germany and Spain believed to be amongst the ones that want him. However, the player has revealed that his priority at the moment is to play consistently and he is looking to stay at Genk until the end of the 2019-20 season.
The player was recently quoted as saying, “All I want to do is play. I'm at an age where I have to play. Many teams in Europe have shown interest in recruiting me, but they have to wait until 2020 when my contract with KRC Genk expires.”
His industry and ability to put his body on the line for the love of the game have made him what he is today and that is evident when you come across excerpts from interviews with his former coaches, colleagues and mentors.
One of his very first admirers was the Vice President of his former club Simba SC, Geofrey Nyange who believes Samatta was destined for greatness owing to his hard working attitude and discipline. Nyange was quoted as saying, “I am not surprised that he is doing very well in the top league competition of Europe because I know Samatta very well. I am the one who signed him for Simba in 2010 and also, I am the one who sold and escorted him to TP Mazembe. He is a player with good discipline, seriousness and a determined attitude.”
The Tanzanian is a star in his nation irrespective of what he achieves further in his career. However, the captain of the Tanzanian national team seems to be in no mood to stop with his development as a professional footballer and continues to work harder by the day to ensure success.