NATIONAL team, Taifa Stars Head Coach, Etienne Ndayiragije, has defended skipper Mbwana Samatta’s performance for the team.
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 Saimon Msuva was brought down inside the box by Mohamed Abrahim.
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 Libya side.
Despite beating Equatorial Guinea 2-1 in their opening match of group qualifiers at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam a week later, many Taifa Stars fans were quick to criticise the performance of captain.
They argue that Samatta is not giving 100 per cent performance.
“Against Equatorial Guinea, he looked like a passenger at times in the first half and some questions began to emerge on his lack of impact after the game, and little has changed against Libya. “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.
However, coach Ndayiragije feels criticisms directed to Samatta are unfair and uncalled for. He defended his key player, saying he is giving 100 per cent for the team.
Ndayiragije said 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 at Genk, the attacking role is almost shared by other top strikers and not just Samatta,” explained Ndayiragije.
Such kind of pressure, Ndayiragije said, requires him (Samatta) to be more careful to avoid an injury that would cost him not to perform for his club.
Ndayiragije also believes that pressure put on Samatta by defenders, provide advantage to other players such as Simon Msuva to attack and score goals.
“I am grateful he has been working hard to make sure we win, his focus has always been great but a big challenge is that he always join the camp late…It can be one or two days before the game, making it impossible to make all plans in a day.”
“Apart from having less time to prepare, it is normal for a player to experience fatigue after a long trip and he requires time to rest. It was a long journey for him from Belgium to Burundi, Libya but yet he had to focus and give his best in the 90 minutes game,” said Ndayiragije.
The Burundi tactician said that Samatta should not be blamed but rather encouraged to keep on winning top honours for both club and country