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Working on Ulimwengu wa soka with BBC Swahili

GENERALLY, most of the Tanzanian soccer fans are crazy about their
Yanga-one part of them, their Simba-another part and the English Premier League,
supporting largely such teams as Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and
Chelsea. Despite going high lately, Manchester City has few fans in this
country and I dare say, Newcastle United has comparatively much more fans than
Man City! Surely, after some years of success, City will also get many of them
in Tanzania given that soccer fans are born and grow up year in, year out.
Everton and Tottenham Hotspurs have almost no supporters here though they
always have great players who perform terrifically. I think what denies them
supporters here is their targets which are any other than snatching

To Tanzanians, apart from supporting the English teams at the
first degree, they also support  some other big European teams at the lower
degree. The latter hold that inferior position, their being big and celebrity
of their players notwithstanding! A Tanzanian may support Arsenal and Barcelona
but Arsenal is always superior to Barca in that support, proved beyond doubt
when the two meet in a European championship match. Same position and status is
held by Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus and other
few European soccer giants.

It goes without saying that almost two decades ago, Chelsea
had a handful of supporters here but now it matches with Man United, Liverpool
and Arsenal in having big number of supporters. Obviously, pre-match provocateur Jose Mourinho, when
he was coaching the team, sped up support of some Tanzanians to that team more
through that pre- match conduct of his than the great success he gave the team
in his four year’s tenure of service at Stamford Bridge.

In this country, the English Premier League is mostly viewed
through TV channels of Supersports based in South Africa and listened through
the BBC Swahili service live broadcasts.( ) The Supersports gets transmission from
the Sky sports of UK. So commentators of those matches are of Skysports who are
seen to be highly and openly biased towards Manchester United against its
opponents! When one hears them talking much on contentiousness of the decision,
more often that decision is against Man United and not otherwise!

For example, in a match between Man United and
Newcastle at Old Trafford on December 26, 2012 which ended 4-3 in favour of Man
United,Skysports commentators made very big efforts to convince viewers that
referee Mike Dean erred in awarding a second goal to Newcastle which was an own
goal by Jonny Evans while Demba Cisse was on offside position. I am very sure
that the similar incident would not be seen as controversial if it befell
opponents of Man United due to being an own goal and the attacking player did
nothing in respect of that ball from the off-side position he was!

This seems to be a mere speculation but look here; in the dying
minutes of the same match referred to above, Antonio Valencia of Man United,
who had already been shown a yellow card, subjected a very dangerous tackle to
Vurnon Anita of Newcastle but it was no wonder for Mike Dean not to show him a
second yellow (red), which he (Valencia) indisputably deserved, due
to fearing wrath of coach Sir Alex Ferguson who had ungentlemanly rebuked him
and his assistant  after the Newcastle’s second goal which was termed by
commentators as “contentious”! The commentators did not talk about
that  dangerous tackle! Nor did they show any surprise as to why Valencia
was not red carded. Why was that real controversial decision not controversial
to them as opposed to that own goal which in fact was not controversial?

Interestingly, even the uncivilized manners shown by Sir Alex
Ferguson was regarded by Skysports commentators as a common thing by not
dwelling, even a bit, on it as opposed to how they covered act of Arsenal’s
coach, Arsene Wenger, of kicking an empty bottle of water in anger, few years
ago, as a very serious undisciplined act!

During a match between Man City and Man United at the Etihad
Stadium of Man City on December 8,2012 which Man United won 2-3, we were
forcefully made to believe that failure of the referee to award penalty to the
Red Devils following a rough tackle to Patrice Evra in a penalty box
(truly there was a contact) was the gravest ‘sin’ to have been committed
by the referee among all ‘sins’ he committed in officiating the match that day!
Surprisingly, the same commentators did see nothing wrong when Yaya Toure of
Man City was denied a chance to go to score for what the
referee ostensibly ruled as a foul to him while he had successfully
jumped over three tackles and was approaching United’s goal mouth whereby he
was supposed to be given an advantage! That was seen to be a very trivial
incident by the commentators while City’s fans saw it as a big issue against
endeavour of their team to win the match.

Here in Tanzania now, when Man United plays against any team, of
England or outside of England, in any competition, fans of Liverpool, Arsenal,
Chelsea and Newcastle are united to support opponents of Man United, whoever
they are, save for when defeat of that other team benefits, in one way or
another, one of those four teams and hence its supporters need Man United to
win a match for the benefit of their team. Always Man United supporters of
Tanzania stand alone in supporting their team in every match excluding the
pointed out circumstances.

Formerly, that was resulted by jealous of success of that big
team. Later, it was due to belief that referees and their assistants are mostly
biased towards that team and now that reason has been added by bias of the commentators
among those who understand English who saw Rio Ferdinand on November 26, 2011
tackling Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United in a penalty box,penalty was
awarded and scored to make the match end in one-all draw. From that time of the
penalty incident up to the end of the match, almost 30 minutes, commentators
talked about controversial penalty after every five minutes or so! They were
really boring!

Conversely, they did not  hear them on October 30, 2010
talking about a controversial goal scored by Luiz Nani of Manchester United
against Spurs after that player had handled the ball clearly thinking it was a
penalty for his team while it was not. To those commentators, that goal scored
by Nani after handling the ball for a couple of seconds was not controversial!
Instead, they were striving to talk about what justified it to be a goal; that
the referee had not blown whistle and hence the match was on. Even though, what
justifies clear and deliberate handball in soccer?

When United’s player does a very common thing which has been done
more skilfully by some players of other teams, commentators laud him far beyond
what he deserves! Mario Balotelli had  scored with a very nice bicycle
kick in the same season when Wyne Rooney did the same but Skysports
commentators lauded the latter with very high excitement as if that sort of
goal had not yet been scored ever since soccer was discovered! They were
talking about ‘uniqueness’ of that goal a long time thereafter while Pele of
Brazil scored that way almost 40 years ago!

Also, those commentators always speak very fiercely on simulations
of players of other teams but speak very coolly when Man United player does
that! Remember when Cristiano Ronaldo was playing for Man United. He was
traditionally diving in penalty box but he was not blamed the way a
Brazilian-born Croatian talented player Eduardo da Silva (Dudu) was blamed
when he did the same once when playing for Arsenal in a qualifying match
of UEFA champions league against Celtic of Scotland in August 2009! Apparently,
the lad lost balance in an attempt to save from tackle  his leg which had
just recovered from serious fracture. For that single act, he was bombarded
quite severely by the UK media, spearheaded by Skysports, till he utterly lost
interest of playing in the English Premier League.

Recently, Ashley Young of Man United dived in simulation in a
number of occasions and his team was awarded penalties for that but he was not
blamed much by Skysports commentators. When Santi Cazorla of Arsenal did that
once in a match against Wes Brom Albion which his team won 2-0 (one of the
goals was from the penalty resulted by Cazorla’s dive) in December 2012, the
attack levelled against him was very high by those commentators!

Bias of Skysports commentators towards Man United and against
other teams has increased hatred of that team by Arsenal, Liverpool,Chelsea and
Newcastle supporters of Tanzania who understand English. Interestingly, when
they were defeated 3-1 by Barca in the 2010/11 European Champions League final
at Wembley Stadium, all those supporters were so happy except those who support
any of those teams with Real Madrid. Those Tanzanians,supporters of, say,
Liverpool and Real Madrid, were clearly in a state of indecision!

All in all, however popular the English premier League is in
Tanzania, many spectators go to our stadia to view live the Tanzania Premier
League matches during weekends even when there is a big English Premier League
match at that very same time. This is quite  different from the situation
in Kenya and Uganda.

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Written by Israel Saria

For the last 20 years I have been working as a football pundit. This experience has provided me with a very useful insight into football and the opportunity to carry out extensive research into the game including its players, the stadiums, the rules and tactics and I have also been grateful to meet a wide range of people connected to football in the UK, Tanzania, Germany .....

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Watanzania tujivunie timu zetu za Taifa, bila kujali wachezaji wanachezea timu zipi…….

Afrika inamhitaji Tenga baada ya aliyofanikisha Tanzania?