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Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Monday, 27 October 2008

Tanzania football's domestic revival

Crowd watching Sunday's match in Dar es Salaam

By Emmanuel Muga
BBC Sport, Dar es Salaam

Officials from the Tanzanian Football Federation (TFF) have praised the growing popularity of domestic football in the wake of Sunday's Dar es Salaam derby, which attracted a record crowd of up to 70,000 spectators.

The match between Simba and Young Africans kicked off at the same time as the English Premier League glamour game between Chelsea and Liverpool - who both have a massive following in Tanzania - but the fans opted to watch the live game.

Young Africans won the game 1-0 and the players were awarded the club's entire share of the gate collections.

"This shows that Tanzanians love their clubs more than foreign teams," TFF Secretary General Frederick Mwakalebela told BBC Sport.

TFF Secretary General Frederick Mwakalebela
I know some avid fans of Liverpool who came to the stadium instead of following their team on TV

TFF Secretary General Frederick Mwakalebela
"This is something we should be proud of.

"Nowhere else in Africa, except in Egypt, will you find fans ignoring a big match on TV to watch a local derby.

"We have a good stadium, TFF has restored discipline in the league and improved its organisation, and that's why people now trust local football," he said.

Mwakalebela said that unlike in the past when they feared organising a big game to coincide with a key English Premier League clash, they can now stage a match without the risk of losing revenues.

"I know some avid fans of Liverpool who came to the stadium instead of following their team on TV," he said.

Tickets sold out and riot police had to fire teargas canisters to disperse rioting fans, who were trying to force their way into the overcrowded 60,000-capacity new stadium.

Matches involving Simba and Young Africans, also known as Yanga, as well as the national team are major crowd-pullers.

So Sunday's match was not a one-off event. The popularity of the game is rising, mainly due to the influx of foreign players and the upgrading of stadiums.

Fans of Dar es Salaam side Young Africans
Young African fans provided much of the colour at Sunday's game
The title-deciding second round of the league will kick off in late December and attendances are expected to stay high, particularly for games involving Yanga, Simba, Kagera Sugar, Azam, Mtibwa and Police.

Mwakalebela, who estimated Sunday's attendance to be between 60,000 to 70,000 fans, said sponsors were also cashing in on the rising popularity and the league was generating money, which attracts foreign players.

Kenyan striker Bernard Mwalala, who scored the only goal for Yanga on Sunday, is one of many foreign players in the Tanzanian league.

Others include his compatriots George Owino and leading scorer in the league Boniface Ambani, as well as Wisdom Ndlovu from Malawi and goalkeeper Obrein Curkovic from Serbia, who all play for Young Africans.

Nigerian duo Eme Ezechukwu and Orji Obina play for Simba and last year's top scorer Mike Katende from Uganda plays for Kagera Sugar.

"In Kenya local football is dead, teams play in front of empty stands, but here it is different, it is exciting, that's why we choose to come here if you can't go to Europe," Mwalala told BBC Sport.

The league has two major sponsors, while the national team is sponsored by four companies, who invest millions of dollars every year.

Young Africans currently top the table on 27 points, followed by Kagera Sugar who have 19 points.

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see also
Yanga win Tanzania league title
21 Apr 08 |  African
Yanga hires Serbian coach Dusan
20 Nov 07 |  African
Yanga advance in Champions Lge
28 Jan 07 |  African
Dar es Salaam to host qualifier
11 Aug 07 |  African
Stadium backing for Tanzania
06 Jun 04 |  African

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