NATIONAL football side, Taifa Stars left yesterday for South Africa, where the team will pitch camp in preparation for their crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) group L qualifiers clash against Lesotho’s ‘Likuena’ in Maseru on November 18th this year.
Stars under the tutelage of Nigerian football legend, Emmanuel Amunike jetted off early yesterday to South Africa’s city of roses, Bloemfontein, where the team will camp for ten days before travelling to Maseru.
According to the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) Media and Communication Officer, Clifford Ndimbo, the squad comprised of 18 local based players, while players playing abroad will join the team later.
“Foreign based players including skipper Mbwana Samatta, who plays for Belgium side KRC Genk will link up with the team four days before the match,” Ndimbo said. However, Samatta will not play against Lesotho because he is suspended for picking three yellow cards.
Other foreign based players are Abdi Banda, who features for South Africa’s topflight side Baroka FC, Himid Mao (Petrojet-Egypt), Rashid Mandawa (BDF XI -Botswana), Hassan Kessy (Nkana Red-Zambia), Simon Msuva (Difaa el Jadida- Morocco) and Shaban Idd Chilunda from Spain’s Tenerife FC.
Striker Thomas Ulimwengu, who was plying trade with Sudanese side Al Hilal, is already with the team. Reports suggest that the striker has terminated contract with the Sudanese club only five months after joining them from Sweden’s AFC Eskilstuna.
The squad which left the country for Bloemfontein comprises goalkeepers Aishi Manula (Simba), Aaron Kalambo (Tanzania Prisons), Beno Kakolanya (Young Africans) and Benedict Tinocco from Mtibwa Sugar.
Defender are Shomari Kapombe, Erasto Nyoni (Simba), Ally Abdulkarim (Lipuli FC), Kelvin Yondan, Gadiel Michael (Young Africans) Aggrey Morris and Abdallah Kheri from Azam FC.
Midfielders are Salum Abubakar, Mudathir Yahya (Azam FC), Salum Kimenya (Tanzania Prisons), Feisal Salum (Young Africans), Jonas Mkude, Shiza Kichuya (Simba).
Strikers are Thomas Ulimwengu, John Bocco (Simba) and Yahya Zayed from Azam FC. Stars camp in South Africa has been boosted with the contribution of 50m/- from President John Magufuli, who presented the cash when he invited Stars players, technical bench staff and TFF leaders for luncheon at the State House following their 2-0 victory over Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on October 16th this year.
The victory revived Stars’ hopes of qualifying for the second time in the AFCON finals. It is now 38 years since Tanzania made its debut in the AFCON finals, which were staged in Nigeria. Currently, Tanzania is placed second in group L of the 2019 AFCON qualifiers with five points from four outings. Uganda Cranes, who collected 10 points from four games top the group.
Victory is vital for Tanzania in its two remained matches against Lesotho and Uganda especially the forthcoming game against Lesotho, which will all but see Stars qualifying for the finals.
Top two teams in the group will book their tickets to the next year’s finals in Cameroon. Stars opponents Lesotho are placed at the bottom of the group with two points, whereas Cape Verde, who will face Uganda in Kampala are placed third with four points.
Stars will conclude their 2019 AFCON qualifiers against Uganda on March 22nd next year in Dar es Salaam.