29. September 2021

Visit to Simba FC

When the record champion invites you to train – “The great gesture of Simba FC”

The development of the TanZebras continues to progress. Meanwhile 5 years ago, the MSV fan scene started to collect with the aim to equip a street soccer team with a set of jerseys on every continent. Bringer of the jerseys was the Brussels exile zebra Jörg, who was on a world tour. Among these teams was a street football team in Tanzania and from this gang a club has grown bit by bit.

TanZebras FC – a fan team of MSV fans

With a lot of support from the fan scene and the Zebra Herd e.V. there is now a “junior and a senior team” and since the first girls are also playing, a women’s team is now being built. TanZebras FC has grown into a real club and plays in the regional leagues. There is a permanent coach, the first away games have been played successfully and the level of awareness is rising rapidly. On the occasion of the 5th birthday a few weeks ago, the first club emblem for the TanZebras from the herd of zebras was created by Julian Funk. The designer of the MSV jerseys for the coming season has delivered a simple, not overloaded and 100% reflecting the attributes and wishes of the DanceZebras – a great work! But there’s a bit of MSV in it all, and so is this one. Well, who finds it?

Logo TanZebras

The new logo of the Tan Zebras – © Zebraherde.de

The positive development of the TanZebras did not go unnoticed even on site. Recently, the German Embassy invited the kids to join them. For more than two hours the DanceZebras could immerse themselves in the life of the embassy, ask hundreds of questions and finally also get to know the ambassador Regine Hess personally. She took extra time for the children and young people. For her it was a premiere after all. The TanZebras were her first official appointment as a representative after she was appointed ambassador. With a lot of heart and passion she gave the DanceZebras a great day. Many thanks to Edward and Melania for the organization.

Europe is the goal, but the answer is Tanzania

There are many orphans among the children of the Tan Zebras. They come from poorest backgrounds and only six children go to school. For many of them, your shoe donations from last year were their first own pair of shoes. Of course an escape from these conditions is the big dream, but we want to build up a perspective on site and so we had another idea:

The record champion from Tanzania is Simba SC, plays in the capital Dar es Salaam and has a Belgian coach in Sven Vandenbroeck. The former zebra herd manager Jörg is known to come from Brussels and has made contact with the Simba SC coach. It quickly became clear that the Tan Zebras were allowed to go to a training session, but not behind the fence, but right in the middle of it, instead of just being there.

They could look behind the scenes of the “FC Bayern von Tansania” and of course take selfies & team photos, interview the stars up close and analyse the training session. The children realized that it doesn’t have to be the dream of Liverpool, Juve or Duisburg. With hard work it also works at home. They enjoyed the time, because nobody had ever been so close or even in the stadium before. On TV, the kids are dominated by the Premier League from England or La Liga from Spain. They can only watch MSV Duisburg in the stream if there is enough money for credits – something edible is usually more important.

The Tan Zebras before visiting a home game of Simba SC – © Zebra herd
Meanwhile Jörg used the time to talk to the trainer team & team manager and discussed the general situation in football on site. In Tanzania there are only two big clubs – Simba and Yanga (Young Africans FC). The football crazy country is divided, but smaller clubs also have their supporters. Unlike MSV Duisburg, Simba is not a training club. There is the first and one more team. Talents are simply bought, one becomes champion and plays in the African Champions League. In the ideal case, talents are sold there at a profit. The team manager Patrick commented on the Tan Zebras as follows: “You have a real chance with the Tan Zebras to make it to the 2nd league if the structure of the club is right, because after that everything is more a question of the money invested.” An example is Azam FC, a club founded in 2007. It is young, successful and now plays in the first division. However, this is only possible because it is pushed by a Business Tycoon – this is the Leipzig tradition model.

“Come to the stadium on Saturday”

After Simba’s management realised that the children had never been to the stadium due to their living conditions, TanZebra FC was invited to the stadium for the game. “Just take your bus behind our team bus. I’ll clear everything up first and then we’ll go to the stadium together,” said Patrick, the record champion’s team manager. (As usual, everything turned out differently…)

The fence flag could not be missing

No sooner said than done. The zebra herd organized the trip and Jörg tinkered with the children on the first banners of their lives. Thanks to Jörg, a fence flag of the Tan Zebras already exists since last year and was taken along as a matter of course. For the kids followed impressions, which we all know from our own experience: the first time in a stadium, the first time this atmosphere and thousands of fans. Football in Africa is celebrated loud and dancing. Fence flags are common and the professional audience is the best coach in the country.
While Jörg went looking for Simba’s club president after arriving at the stadium to deepen the network at Simba, he bypassed all the securities as usual and ended up in the internal wing. Sometimes a door opened here, sometimes there, and poof, he was standing in the middle of the Simba team cabin, where everyone was in the concentration phase and receiving the last tactical instructions from head coach Sven Vandenbroeck. When Kagere, the star of the team, recognized Jörg, he just said “Tan Zebras”- but it was the wrong moment. Sven Vandenbroeck, who wanted to have one of the slightly different zebra herd interviews with Jörg, had just sworn in his own team.

Pure enthusiasm among the kids

So Jörg continued his search until he came across the second team of Simba and their coach, who played the audition in the stadium. We had to take advantage of the opportunity, Jörg thought to himself, and reported on the training he had completed and our children and youngsters. We swapped numbers, talked shop a little and maybe we’ll be able to play in one of the auditions for Simba II’s opponents. When Jörg then went back to the kids in the stands, four other people had asked about our team and how we could play against each other. So the kids weren’t just excited about their stadium experience – it was great networking!

While everyone was dancing, singing and watching Simba win, there was one person in the stadium who kept following a stream from Münster – you just can’t do without Duisburg!

Thanks Jörg!

So it remains exciting and there are still some ideas –
what could happen to the dancing zebras if you help?

The complete interview with Sven Vandenbroek is here:

Sven, first Cameroon, then Zambia and now Tanzania. What do you think is so special about African football?

Nothing is predictable here, because you don’t know what will happen today, let alone tomorrow or next week. But the people here live football. It’s incredibly emotional.

Here Sven (right) was still active himself – © Bjørn Erik Pedersen / Wikimedia Commons

Could you perhaps briefly describe an experience that is difficult for Europeans to understand. Something that wouldn’t happen here?

It is always fascinating, but frightening at the same time, to experience the “Marabou” (miracle healer, magician; editor’s note). He treats the players with voodoo and razor blades. He cuts into their flesh to chase away the evil spirits. I have never heard of anything like this in Europe.

Another experience was when we won in Cameroon. We had to organize a transport for us between the two biggest cities in Cameroon, because we had already missed the last flight. Normally that means a five-hour drive. For us they simply rerouted a scheduled flight from Kinshasa (DR Congo) to Yaounde to pick us up in Douala. If you win in Africa, anything is possible!

You are now head coach of the Tanzanian record champion Simba S.C. Are the structures there comparable to those of other top clubs in Africa?

Oh no! They can’t be compared. Simba wants to improve constantly, but we are still far from having a professional environment. Video analysis is still completely unknown, medical care is not considered very important and when a player gets a contract, it is without any prior medical check-up.

There is still a lot to be done and a lot of work to be done. But this also means an additional budget, which is not always available. The turnover is very low because there is no marketing or merchandising. In Cameroon, for example, a football player in the highest division earns between $100 and $200 per month.

You still have a good two-year contract with Simba, but let’s look a little further ahead. If you were allowed to choose your own coaching career, would you rather win the Champions League with Simba, coach a top European club like Real Madrid, MSV Duisburg or take over our Tan Zebras?

After I win the Tanzanian championship with Simba, I want to get as far as possible in the Champions League with the club. Later I would like to continue in Europe.

With Mbwana Samatta, a former Simba player, a Tanzanian from RC Genk has just been transferred to Aston Villa for £10 million. Can we look forward to seeing more stars from Tanzania in the top European leagues in the coming years?

I hope so. In South-East Africa there are many good, talented players with fine technique. They are different from players from Central or West Africa, who are more robust and taller. They are also mentally a bit different. Tanzanians are usually rather shy. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why so few of them have made the leap to European top teams. If Samatta makes it into England, it could open the doors to Europe for new players.

How crazy does it sound to you that fans of MSV Duisburg have founded a street football team in a suburb of Dar Es Salaam?

It is very crazy and unusual. But at the same time very bravura and admirable. I am in favour of such initiatives. Social projects are welcome and necessary, but I also know how difficult such things are here and how much work is behind them.

The MSV became vice champion under Rudi Gutendorf. He holds the sole record with 18 stations as national coach. In 1981 he also coached Tanzania. Wouldn’t that be a challenge for you too?

To coach the national team of Tanzania would indeed be a nice thing, as I love the country and the level of performance is quite good overall. Football has developed a lot here in recent years. It could indeed be a step towards higher national teams for me.

Parts of the MSV fans have a friendship with De Graafschap in the Netherlands. A club where you yourself used to be active. What good memories do you have of that time?

I liked it very much, because I learned a lot there as well. In the Netherlands, football is played in an offensive and tactically very demanding way. There I became a better footballer. De Graafschap has a 10,000-seat stadium, where there’s always a good atmosphere. The fans have helped us a lot and helped us to some points.

Back to Africa. How do you see the future of Simba SC? And also your own?

I think we have a very good chance of becoming champions this season. Our squad is very well positioned for the first division, but we need a much higher level for the Champions League. Our main focus is on the CL.

For myself I would like to have a club in Europe. My aspirations go beyond Africa, although I would of course love to take on a national team like Ghana, Nigeria or Côte d’Ivoire as a challenge. In North Africa there are also many ambitious clubs like Al Ahly and Zamalek in Egypt, Wydad and Raja in Morocco or Esperance in Tunis. These championships have a very high level.

Sven, the Zebra Herd thanks you very much for the interview and wishes you continued success – no matter if in Africa or Europe!