By: Oma Akatugba in Genk, Belgium
Tying down who is arguably the biggest East African export for an interview didn’t come on a platter of gold. It took many months before a proper schedule could be reached for the opportunity, and Mbwana Samatta made it worthwhile.
At 18, a man who would turn out to be the biggest image of Tanzanian football left his country for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Having represented Tanzanian giants, Simba F.C in the past, it was the perfect chance for young Samatta to break even, and he did – with some style. Tout Puissant Mazembe (TP Mazembe) is arguably one of Africa’s most organised and consistent teams, and its was there Samatta engendered the hard work and tenacity that has seen him shine in a top Belgian club.
A former African Footballer of the Year, for players based in the continent, he scored many goals in the CAF Champions League before making a move up to KRC Genk in 2016. Samatta revealed how it was coming from the streets of Mbagala, Tanzania to becoming the exemplary shining star in Belgium. ”It is not easy, as an African kid, there were always problems of achieving what you want to, not like the European people with academies. ”I thank God that I could make it, today I’m proud of myself when I look back to how it all started. I think I can just say it was not easy but at some point in my process of getting known, I played in Congo DR and Tanzania. I’m enjoying it now, I’m happy in Europe.
The Progress From Simba To Genk: Is Samatta An African Giant?
He dismisses the tag with a very broad smile. ”No, I’m not the African giant yet but I’m the kid from Africa who Africans like to see doing something. ”We used to see a lot of football players do well with their careers. I’m not there yet but I’m proud of myself because in Tanzania, we had nobody to point to as a star who has paved the way. ”In Nigeria, you could point to Okocha, Kanu, Amuneke who coached the Taifa Stars. We had none of these players in the past that could be a role model. I just tried to pick up myself to be one of the kids who want to play football, and today, I’m an example to Tanzanian kids.”
Being Captain For Club & Country
”It’s not easy but from where I came, I don’t consider the pressure of being captain in Europe or in Tanzania. ”Maybe I used to have that pressure when I was a kid but today, I don’t have feeling of it and I can cope with the pressure. ”I talk to the players, and they listen, I don’t have pressures. ”It’s not every time they see something that inspires them.
How Often Does Samatta Eat The Local Food?
He laughs hysterically and said, ”Here in Europe, sometimes I cook for myself. I’m African, I miss some foods sometimes. When I miss these foods, I go to a shop somewhere around to buy the materials at a local store and bring them home to cook. ”My wife is not here now although. She’s in a university in Tanzania. When she finishes, she’ll join me.”
Going To The Umrah
”I’ve been at the Umrah twice, and I felt like a reborn. It was amazing to be there.”
On His Foundation With Alikiba And The Musician’s Football Career
”When we started, it wasn’t a foundation, we just wanted to play a game. He was a footballer before. He was in a team in the Tanzanian Premier League last year. ”When I saw him, I told him you’re a singer, but likes football and I’m a footballer. Let’s play the game for our people to enjoy, because it will be interesting for Alikiba and Samatta play football together and people will come, watch and go home. ”When I told him, he had another idea. He had charity on mind, and said we could contribute money and buy stuff for students in school, food for the orphanages. We started the foundation two years ago, and last year, we encouraged donations, to help other people.” Samatta was quick to deny his rich tag and said he gives kids in Tanzania his boots.
He added that he also brings scouts down to see players and pick those who impress them. ”I’m not so rich. I can give somebody water, I give boots and in my plan, I can help people join clubs. I’m trying to help develop the local pitch in my city. When they see me, they’ll like to play football. I’m trying my best to see if I can help, and I also try to find scout and agents who go out there to pick players.
Samatta Doesn’t Miss Tanzania So Much
”Interesitngly, I don’t miss Tanzania so much. I actually miss Dr Congo more because I left Tanzania for Congo DR at 18 and that is where I developed into an adult. They helped me become better and helped me get stronger,” he said.
Language and Music
”I speak Swahili, English, and a little French. ”My best African musicians – top three. Numbers don’t lie. I like the ”Good Life” group in Uganda, Davido, and Diamond Platinum.” Not the greatest of socialites, Samatta revealed that he stays indoors, watches movies and listens to music. He also speaks about mountain running and keeping fit. ”I stay indoors, play the PlayStation, watch movies, listen to music. I also have a second session with my training. I try to pray 5 times a day.
”I do mountain running because I want to get fitter. I come from Africa where I could not get anything, I could not get boots. Today I’m in Europe, you don’t forget where you come from. There is the passion.” He cruises around Genk in a Range Rover and said he drives the same car in Tanzania too. ”I love the Range Rover because it’s comfortable,” he said.