IN any game with huge following such as football, supporters will either sing songs of praise on the player(s), coaches and team’s effort or blame them all together in case of poor performance.
They would praise or blame the team on the pitch and through social media platforms, especially Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
This kind of challenge happens to many football stars and other celebrities in the world. Vivid example is Lionel Messi, when he plays for his national team Argentina, Alex Sanchez, when he played for Manchester United and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid.
The mentioned players and many others have been repeatedly accused of not performing at the same level as they do for either their clubs or the national teams. Consequently, some of the players become depressed and some would rash to decisions that cost the whole team’s performance.
Messi provides a clear example, as he once decided to stop serving his national team, after fans’ pressure mounted on him. It took the efforts from the Argentina President Mauricio Macri to convince the Barcelona star to reconsider his decision to quit the national team after their Copa America Centenario defeat in 2016.
Argentina lost 4-2 on penalties to Chile after a 0-0 draw in MetLife Stadium, and an emotional Messi said after the match that his career with the national team is over. It is sad because, this trend from football supporters make the game look as if, there is only a single player playing in a game and the rest are just wooden blocks to support the main player.
Of recent in Tanzania, the focus is bent towards national team, Taifa Stars skipper and key striker, Mbwana Samatta. Samatta, who features for Belgium top division side, KRC Genk has been on the spotlight for his performance in the national team colours recently, with some fans saying he is putting a below par display.
Shortly after Taifa Stars lost 2-1 to Libya in their second group J clash of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers at Stade Mustapha Ben Jannet Stadium in Monastir, Tunisia on November 19th this year, several football fans took to the social media network, criticising Samatta for his performance despite scoring.
Samatta gave Taifa Stars an 18th minute lead with a penalty straight through the middle after Simon Msuva was brought down inside the box by Mohamed Ibrahim.
His goal sustained throughout the first half but things changed in the last stanza as Libya equalised in the similar fashion through a penalty kick by Sanad Al Warfali before Anis Saltou scored the winner in the 82nd minute.
While Taifa Stars were relatively comfortable in the first half, they were short on offensive threat. Many attributed this to Samatta’s attacking nous, saying his movements acted as a real barrier for his side as they attempted to break down a well-organised Libyan side.
Despite beating Equatorial Guinea 2-1 in their opening match of group qualifiers at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam a week earlier, many Taifa Stars fans were quick to criticise the performance of captain. They argue that Samatta is not giving 100 per cent performance like that he put for KRC Genk.
“He lacked his usual intensity and the things he normally does with relative ease are becoming difficult for him, leaving Simon Msuva and Ditram Nchimbi somewhat isolated,” wrote a fan on social media. Some fans even went further, believing that he (Samatta) puts less effort to the national team in fear of picking an injury and miss an opportunity to serve his club.
However, the good thing is that Samatta has reacted very positively to the criticisms. Samatta has expressed his commitment to the national team, Taifa Stars, saying he will keep on improving his performance to even become a better player.
Samatta acknowledged receiving messages from various individuals, complaining about his dismal show in the national colours.
“I’ve received messages and comments from several individuals, saying that they are not pleased with my recent performance with the national team…anyway, I’m not taking it personal, and rather I’m happy to hear people speaking their mind. I take it as a challenge, which should encourage me to work hard and keep improving and become a better player,” he said.
It is important to note that every player in the world deserves respect for him/her to grow professionally. Samatta has grown professionally compared to most Tanzanian players, as he is the only player from Tanzania who has been able to play for two international clubs for more than five years and won trophies for his team and attain individual awards.
He played for DR Congo giants TP Mazembe from 2011 to 2016, and won the League, CAF Champions League and was awarded African player of the year (based in Africa). He switched to KRC Genk (2016 -to date) and won the league title and Ebony Shoe Award in Belgium.
Samatta scored 42 goals in 94 games for TP Mazembe and has so far scored 75 goals in 189 matches at Genk. Therefore, it is obvious he needs to avoid an injury as he as other players, have a dream to join other big clubs in Europe, with a competitive league such as English Premier League (EPL), La Liga (Spain), Seria A (Italy), Ligue 1 (France) or Bundesliga (German).
Considering, in January 2020 a transfer market window will be open and there are several EPL clubs that have shown interest for his service, such as; Everton and West Ham. In fact, Samatta has been putting a good performance for Taifa Stars.
Record shows that for the past ten matches, Samatta has scored five goals and provided three assists for Taifa Stars, more than any other player in the team. According to Taifa Stars Head Coach, Etienne Ndayiragije, opponent teams have always put focus on Samatta, as they believe he is a threat compared to his fellow team mates, unlike in Genk.
“Unlike at Genk, with the national team, the opposing defenders put pressure on him (Samatta), while the attacking role is almost shared by other top strikers and not just Samatta,” explained Ndayiragije.
It is obvious that such kind of pressure at Taifa Stars requires him (Samatta) to be more careful to avoid an injury that would cost him not to perform for his club, although according to the Head Coach it offers an advantage to other players such as Simon Msuva to attack and pressure the opponent goal.
While we blame Samatta, it is also important as a nation to make sure that we device a strategy that will help Tanzania to create top quality players, who will shoulder the burden of scoring and leading the national team. This reminds us to establish strong football academies that will help our players to grow well and become top professional players.