Often Partisan

Off to Partizan – The African Special

If a trip to Europe with the Blues in the Europa League wasn’t exotic enough, it’s been reported that Blues may have a pre-season tour of Tanzania. With this in mind, I thought it was only special I devoted one of the “Off to Partizan” series to the possibility of a fixture or two in Dar es Salaam.

I have to admit, I didn’t think Tanzania would be the first destination that Blues would think of for a pre-season tour. Whilst you’d think Central Africa would be hot in the middle of July, Tanzania is south of the Equator so July is actually in their cooler season, with average temperature of around 28 degrees celsius. Indeed, July is one of the best times to visit Tanzania as the humidity is considerably lower than it would be earlier in the year.

Despite it’s Arabic name (Dar es Salaam means “Haven of Peace”), it’s easy enough to buy alcohol, with the local beers costing between 50p and £1.50 a half litre bottle. Should you wish to stick to well known European names, you’re looking at three to four times the price. Wikitravel also talks of lots of excellent Indian restaurants in Dar, so a curry might be in order whilst you’re out there.

It’s likely that any matches played in Dar will be played at the Chinese-built 60,000 capacity Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium. The stadium is only four years old, and as you can see from the pictures, looks an impressive ground – albeit one with artificial turf.

This report from Goal.com said we would be facing the two heavyweights in Tanzanian football, Simba SC and Young Africans FC (aka Yanga). Between these two teams, they have won 38 of the 45 league titles contested since 1965, and both have played in African continental matches, although neither have had much success.

Yanga are the current Tanzanian champions, having beaten arch-rivals to the title on goal difference; Ugandan striker Emmanuel Okwi missing a crucial penalty to Simba to allow their city neighbours to win the championship – their 22nd in total. Yanga’s players aren’t incredibly well-known, although the most famous name to pass through their books is a name that will ring bells with Blackburn Rovers fans – Shabani Nonda of DR Congo – who played a short loan spell at Ewood park. They are trying to purchase Tanzanian international striker Mrisho Ngassa from Tanzanian Premier League rivals Azam FC to improve their strike rate in front of goal.

Simba on the other hand are considering sacking their current coach, Zambian Patrick Phiri and replacing him with the Tanzanian coach Talib Hilal who is currently working in Oman. It’s been a poor season for the Lions, who have won nothing and went out of the African Champions League in the first round to holders TP Mazembe.

According to Goal.com, this trip could net Blues $1.2million – just a shade under £750k – which whilst not being incredibly money-spinning would surely bring some much needed cash to the coffers. It would also be a money spinner to the Tanzanian sides; Simba netted a much-needed £125,000 from their CAF Champions League tie with TP Mazembe, and you would think that they would be able to net a similar amount from a tie with Blues.

Whilst I can only hypothesise, I think that this trip would be another one to build Carson Yeung’s empire within China, and to emphasise the Birmingham City brand-name. Tanzania has benefitted massively from Chinese construction projects, and Chinese firms still have heavy interests in Tanzania’s rich mineral deposits. I can’t see the direct connection as yet to what Carson would be trying to achieve with this tour, but I’m sure that there is more to this trip than a junket to a hot country.


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