The 2019/20 Tanzania Premier League season will kick-off on Saturday, August 24. The first block will include some exciting fixtures, including the Mwanza derby between Mbao and Alliance and Mbeya Derby between Prisons and Mbeya City. Probably the pick of the opening round’s action involves KMC, who host Azam at the Uhuru Stadium.
It’s been a while since there has been so much excitement before the start of a new season in Tanzania. The top four Simba, Young Africans, Azam and KMC have made a significant leap in quality compared to last season.
The Municipal owned KMC have managed to put together a very exciting and talented squad, which boasts some of the finest young players in Tanzania. After a very good topflight debut season, they appear to mean business after snapping up some serious new firepower including last season first runner up top goal scorer Salim Aiyee, Vitalis Mayanga, Ivorian attacking midfielder Serge Niguez and the experienced duo of Jean Mugiraneza and Janvier Bokungu who have previously featured for Azam and Simba respectively.
Under Jackson Mayanja, KMC might even be better but they are a couple of seasons away from being considered a serious threat to the usual title contenders. They are almost certain to finish 10-20 points behind the top two but another top four finish will confirm their rising status.
They may not have made flashy signings, but Azam who finished third last season have quietly had a good transfer window. They still have the financial muscle to dominate the local transfer market but under the newly appointed Burundian coach, Etienne Ndayiragijje Azam have tried to look for value and trust in their youth set up.
In appointing Ndayiragijje, one could say Azam are becoming more pragmatic and building for the future. Ndairagijje has not won anything in Tanzania but the compelling reason to give him the hot seat is his readiness to promote and trust youngsters will help the club to integrate Academy graduates who have often found it difficult to get into the first team under previous coaches.
Arguably Azam’s most interesting acquisition is that of Iddi Selemani ‘Nado’ from Mbeya City. It was only three seasons ago when Nado was catching attention in the Ndondo Cup, a popular off season tournament that involves teams from various estates in Dar as well as playing in the backwaters of the First Division League.
The unfortunate truth for Ndayiragijje is that he has inherited a team that was seen as a serious title contender but finished 18 points behind Simba and 11 behind Young Africans last season. There is also the goal scoring issue that has derailed the team in the last two seasons. Donald Ngoma and Obrey Chirwa have not really been that good while Burundi striker Selemani Ndikumana looks like his best days are well behind him.
With several signings in the bag and a CAF Confederation Cup return to look forward to, there is real cause for optimism at the Chamazi based club though on paper they look a little bit lightweight compared to the defending champions.
The upturn in the club’s finances has translated into an ambitious, and ultimately fruitful, transfer market. The ambitious transfer window has seen the addition of ten new players and offloading of ageing ones, Thaban Kamusoko and Amissi Tambwe.
The arrival of last season Uganda Premier League top scorer Juma Balinya , David Molinga, Maybin Kalengo and the experienced Namibian Sadney Urikhob will help reinforce the striking department which over relied on Heritier Makambo last season.
The only disappointment for Young Africans so far has been Makambo’s transfer to Guinea moneybags, Horoya but they have managed to invest the $70,000 transfer fee received back into their squad by boosting their striking options.
Young African’s supporters can be proud of the progress that has been achieved by the new administration within a short time. There is still work to be done on the pitch, of course, but with three solid sponsors in SportPesa, GSM and Taifa Gas they finally have the resources to bridge the financial gap with their rivals, Simba and Azam.
That said, it is surprising that Young Africans could only manage to replace their two left full backs, Gadiel Michael and Mwinyi Haji with the relatively unknown and inexperienced Muharami Issa ‘Marcelo’.
After a crazy transfer window, Simba will be hoping to march towards a feat achieved by the generation team of 1976 to 1980‚ which won the league title five years in a row. First they have to go after a hat-trick of league titles and with their star-studded squad‚ the question is if anybody can stop them.
Even though their closest rivals have beefed up their squads, when you look at the quality of the Simba squad‚ it is hard to find reasons why they should not win the league. They have the squad with the most depth in all positions‚ by far. It will be difficult for Azam and Young Africans to fend off a side which has grown in confidence and experience.
While Emmanuel Okwi, Juuko Murushid, James Kotei and Haruna Niyonzima are big names that have left the Msimbazi den, the addition of Sudan international Sharaf Shiboub, Francis Kahata, and Deo Kanda from TP Mazembe has rejuvenated the squad. Three Brazilians have also been added with one, Tairone Santos da Silva already looking like a good bet while the other two still need to convince.
But above all, Simba have maintained their influential players with the exception of Okwi. With rumours circulating about the future of Meddie Kagere who has been sensational since his move from Gor Mahia, Simba swiftly acted and extended his deal for two years which will keep him at Msimbazi up to 2022. Clatous Chama contract has also been extended while the local core of Jonas Mkude, Erasto Nyoni, Aishi Manula, Shomari Kapombe and John Bocco have all been retained after their contract expired at the end of last season.