By Nigel Matongorere
In the past, South Africa used to be the preferred destination for Zimbabwean footballers but in recent months Tanzania has slowly emerged as another option.
Former FC Platinum duo of Donald Ngoma and Thabani Kamusoko started the trend when they signed for Dar es Salaam giants Young Africa last year. Ngoma and Kamusoko had a fairytale debut season when Yanga won a league and cup double.
The duo success has opened the doors for other Zimbabwean players, who are now flocking to the East African country. Former CAPS United captain Method Mwanjali has also followed suit and left the country last month to join Yanga.
The country’s leading top goal scorer Bruce Kangwa of Highlanders left Bulawayo last Tuesday to go and finalise his move to Azam FC. Kangwa left the country together with Makepekepe forward Abbas Amidu, who is also set to seal his move to Azam.
More local players might be on their way to Tanzania as there are a few weeks before the Ligi Kuu Bara’s transfer window closes. On the other hand, only four Zimbabwean players have crossed the Limpopo to join South African clubs during this transfer period.
Dynamos captain Augustine Mbara has signed for Highlands Park, Harare City full back Blessing Moys has joined Maritzburg United while the Chicken Inn duo of Edmore Chirambadare and Mitchell Katsvairo has signed for Kaizer Chiefs.
In previous transfer windows, Super Diski clubs would raid the Zimbabwean market for all the top talent on offer. At one point South African football fans used to joke that Zimbabwean clubs have a “buy one get two” policy for their player.
Tanzanian clubs are now emerging as a major player on the Zimbabwean transfer market competing with their Super Diski counterparts.
But what is luring Zimbabwean stars to opt for Tanzania rather than the Super Diski?
Last year, the Ligi Kuu Bara signed a three-year sponsorship deal with mobile telecommunications giants Vodacom worth $3.1 million per season.
Local football intermediary George Deda, the man behind most of those deals taking Zimbabwean players to Tanzania, believes the Ligi Kuu Bara is now a better attraction to the Super Diski.
“As an agent or manager my number one priority is to find the best deal for my clients and at the moment the most fertile land is in Tanzania,” Deda told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Rich pickings are no longer found in South Africa alone, the Tanzanian clubs are now getting a lot of sponsorship and they are paying their players well.
“South African clubs rarely pay winning bonuses, they don’t offer you free accommodation and the lifestyle across the Limpopo is also very expensive.”
Deda added: “If you look closely, the only local footballer who is living comfortably or who is wealthy, it has to be Edward Sadomba.
“But Sadomba only spent about six months in South Africa at Wits before he was deemed excess baggage. He went onto to play in Mozambique, Sudan and Libya which is where he amassed his wealth.”
Deda said Zimbabwean footballers are missing out on good opportunities to break into Europe because the local agents are not adventurous to try their luck in East or North Africa.
“The main problem is with us the agent or managers because we fear to venture into different markets,” he said.
“We are not doing our work properly. We should have Zimbabwean players all over the continent; right now East Africa is an emerging market which we should capitalise on.
“North Africa has always been a good market and we should get our players in there where they also have a better chance of getting into Europe.
“Scouts from France, Belgium and the Netherlands are ever present in countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt looking for the next big African star.”
Former Warriors winger Alois Bunjira welcomed the emerging of this new market in East Africa and other regions.
“If the money is good then I urge our players to try out these new countries. That’s what Nigerians do; they are all over Africa and the world and when they come back home, they bring back that extra flavour to the national team.”
Bunjira added: “This is what our players need to do. Go out and try their luck in these new leagues which are offering better packages so that they can live comfortably after retiring.”
Another football intermediary Gibson Mahachi admitted that Tanzania is now becoming a attractive destination but South Africa remained the primary goal for local players.
“The South African Premiership remains the best league on the continent in terms of sponsorship and professionalism,” Mahachi told the Daily News on Sunday.
“For me the Tanzania is coming up; there seems to be a few clubs that are well sponsored and they seem to doing well.
“But it will not make sense to compare the wealth of the South African league with any other on the continent. The Super Diski is probably the sixth or seventh best sponsored league in the world.” Daily News