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banner Saturday, 2 March, 2002, 20:03 GMT
Zanzibar wants football independence
A traditional dhow
Zanzibar is known for sights like this than for football
At the start of the current Cecafa club champions cup tournament, Zanzibar, the island best known for its exotic beaches and meandering narrow streets.

But not many know that the legendary British footballer Stanley Mathews once visited the island and played the tricks which made him a household name.

Former player Mzee Mwinyi, vividly recalls that day and it was from him that he took his inspiration.

"It was him who influenced changes within me and later I became one of the best footballers in Zanzibar."

That was in the 1950's when passion for football was growing in Zanzibar after they took part in the first Gossage Cup in 1947 which brought together former British colonies and protectorates of Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

The tournament is now called Cecafa Challenge Cup.

Football independence

Although Zanzibar has its own FA, it is an affiliate of the Tanzanian Football Association and is not related directly with Fifa or Caf.

And at the recent openning of the Cecafa club champions tournament, Zanzibar's President Amani Karume said he hoped the East African football community would support Zanzibar's efforts to become affiliated to the game's governing bodies.

So what impact has Zanzibar's football had in East Africa?

They've hosted the Cecafa club championships six times.

Although they've never won it, Zanzibar reached the final in 1998, and got to the quarter finals during the current competition.

Zanzibar has also contributed several national team coaches and players for Tanzania's Taifa Stars.

However, the selection of the team always brings tug of war between the FA in Zanzibar and the FA in Tanzania.

Zanzibari footballers
Zanzibari footballers

At club level though, players have never featured for clubs in Kenya or Uganda.

With the Gulf connections, several Zanzibari players have gone to teams in Oman, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, but Zanzibar is yet to export players to Europe.

Zanzibar's struggle

"It is not easy and we need to tap the skills very early and find means to develop them" says coach Muhammed Said who says the lack of proper training facilities is and added disadvantage.

Zanzibar runs her own league which has no sponsorship, because the government has refused sponsorship offers from manufacturers of alcohol, as it's deemed inappropriate.

Now the 16 teams in the league can hardly afford decent playing kit, and no other companies have come forward to offer support.

"How can we put our teams through proper training sessions when some of them come to practice sessions without having eaten?" says the coach of premier division Small Simba, Mabrouk Ali.

This is the background to Zanzibar's desire to be accepted by CAF and FIFA.

This was even stressed by Zanzibar's President Amani Karume when inaugurating the current club tournament.

" We hope the East African football fraternity would support Zanzibar's endeavour." he said, saying he believes Zanzibar have the right to apply.

With its population of 1 million, Zanzibari football fans want to know when this will happen.

However there are only two stadia, and the FA is run by a government appointee and there is government intervention now and then.

See also:

13 Feb 02 |  Africa
Kagame saves Cecafa
10 Jan 02 |  Cup of Nations
Tanzania to host Challenge Cup
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