What is your background in the sport of football in Tanzania, how did you get started?
As a young boy, I used to dream to become a professional football player, this did not happen on time, so I had to have a most similar dream of owning a football team that can produce professional players or at least pave a way to that, so far my team has managed to make a track record of producing top players most notably one is – Mbwana Samatta of Belgium’s Genk and CAF African based player of the year in 2015.
Tell us a bit more about the African Lyon FC? When did you start the club?
African Lyon Football Club has it’s roots in the very densely populated area on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, called Mbagala, which is in Temeke district. The team was initially called Mbagala market, which is a “flea market” area in Mbagala, and the owners were the everyday sellers and clients of that market. The team worked its way up from the 4th division to the top of the Tanzania Premier league. That achievement coincided with an ownership change to cope with the demands of competing in top-flight football. The team was eventually bought by Honorable Member of Parliament and businessman, Mr. Mohammed Dewji in 2009 who renamed the team “African Lyon”. In 2010 he sold the team to me.
Your club has a reputation for developing the youth in Tanzania, What is your main motivation for youth development? and how it is different from other youth football academies in Tanzania?
Just like the slogan of our club says – “We Believe In Youths”, my faith in youths’ ability to make changes and do great things is what motivates me. Different from other big clubs whose main focus is to get championship
African Lyon didn’t have an ideal season and ended at the bottom three of the table, what went wrong and what measures are you doing to have a much successful season this year?
Running and maintaining a good team needs a lot of money, Last season was a tough one we couldn’t even manage to maintain our professional coaches .We did not have enough funds to make the team succeed. For this year we have different technics that we believe they will make us win and get upgraded back to premier league e.g partnering with DANTANI, As African Lyon FC we have facility development program that can be used to generate more fund.
There is still a chance that African Lyon can compete at the premier league next season, if you can win the cup competition, tell us a bit more about your strategy in winning the cup or qualifying?
There are three projects that we are working on to generate funds for the club:
– We’ve partner with Dar es Salaam municipal to establish stadium/training grounds for the public
– Safe water project -Hydration for Education.
– An anti poaching project, that we’ve been working on for over a year, we now looking for some partnership and we have faith we will the right partner to team up on this project.
Talk to us a little bit about sponsorships, how do they play a part in keeping small clubs like yours afloat in the first division and competing against the giant clubs?
When 2 of the top 3 brands in a country of 50 million people are football clubs, it does not take a genius to figure the business opportunities for that industry
– This is pure love without any marketing effort
– Africa remains a land of opportunity as so much is still to be developed – the continent has produced Eto’o, Drogba, Toure and more with little investment and poor infrastructure
– The opportunities to develop talent with relatively small levels of investment are huge
– Clubs are now becoming more professional and the economies are developing, which are helping in making football business more viable – the Tanzania Premier League now have sponsorships from major telecoms, beverage, TV and financial services companies
In your opinion, what does Tanzanian and African football needs to go to that next level. Is it cash injections from the government, more professional organization from the league or better TV rights income from the broadcasters or?
It is different in African countries, the government does not inject money into football. There’re 3 areas that club can generate money – trading players, TV rights and broadcast and sponsorship.
African football clubs have seldom collaborated with Arab football clubs in the Middle East, do you think it would be beneficial if there were more collaborations like the African Lyon Football club is planning in the near future with Dantani Football Group?
Yes it will be such a beneficial collaboration. All upcoming footballers are dreaming of playing out of Africa and get chance to grow professionally. In the global football world Middle East and Africa are both “finding themselves”. Middle East has embarked on a very long and impressive football project, Africa still trying to find a short cut to get back on track. Football is CULTURE just as Music is culture. We both need to discover and blend our football cultures. It is what we have most in common
As Middle East tries to identify her own blend of football, it is important to interact with other football cultures. Close cooperation and coordination at young level would be extremely helpful . Exchange programs and acclimatizing to a different environment would be of great assistance to both Middle East and Africa
So we hope true partnerships can be established and we can lend/borrow as we both define our new Football Culture