On July 14, Everton FC became the first Premier League club to play a
game in Tanzania. Everton’s less than 48-hour stay in Dar es Salaam
proved to be too short for fans from all over Africa who came to fill
up 60,000 seats at the National Stadium, but the impact it had on East
African football was surreal. Just by having a Premier League side in
the country, we can see the excitement and potential growth East
African football can reach.

Ronald Koeman spoke about his team’s visit to East Africa and answered
“not all about football”. It’s true, a preseason tour for an European
football club means more than team bonding or raising physical levels.
Everton’s preseason in Tanzania was arranged as part of the new
partnership with a betting company in Kenya, SportPesa. The club
record shirt sponsorship deal means SportPesa will feature on the
front of Everton’s playing kit for 5 years. In appreciation for this
partnership, SportPesa organized an inaugural Super Cup in June to
decide who would get the opportunity to play against the Toffees. The
tournament included top four teams from each of the leagues in Kenya
and Tanzania and Kenya’s most successful club, Gor Mahia FC, came out
as eventual winner. Popularly known as the K’Ogalo, Gor Mahia
celebrates 15 league titles to their name. What an opportunity this
was for the Kenyan side to go head to head against an English Premier
League club. The result was only 2:1 to Everton, but the K’Ogalo had
many reasons to be proud of their performance according to Everton’s
manager. While most news headlines were highlighting Wayne Rooney’s
30-yard strike, Koeman was full of praise for Gor Mahia’s high
intensity physical play.

Off the pitch, Everton players held coaching clinics in Uhuru Primary
School to inspire next generation of Tanzanian footballers. A couple
of players also spent a day with Albino United, a football team made
up of people with albinism. Albinism is a congenital disorder that
comes with complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair,
and eyes. In Tanzania, many albinos, young as 6-months old, are being
attacked and murdered based on traditional superstitions. Many believe
that albinos are ghosts who bring bad luck and their body parts are
used in witchcraft for ritual purposes. We hope that Everton’s
campaign to raise awareness on the attacks against these people will
bring positive change to this ongoing tragedy in the country.

With all this in mind, East African football can realize how much of a
big influence investment in football can have. In recent years,
nations like Thailand, Vietnam, and China have greatly benefited from
European clubs’ preseason tours. Ambitious companies sponsoring
football clubs have witnessed the pervasiveness of the footballing
network. Today Chinese teams receive incredible financial support and
the Thai league is also growing, reporting bigger financial support
than that of Korea’s K-League. Although these countries’ national
teams may still be miles behind to qualify for the World Cup, they are
bound to initiate more football investment for further development in
youth football and the footballing culture. Football administrations
in these countries have never been busier. East African nations –
Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Uganda – have struggled to make the
global football scene, but Everton’s short visit showed us that
football is growing. SportPesa has been a significant investor in the
communities in Africa. Since the firm’s pledge to change communities
in Africa, it has been investing money into grassroots and
professional sports including football, rugby, and boxing. While
holding the title sponsorship for the Kenya Premier League, it remains
main partners with three teams in the league. Recently launched in
Tanzanian football, it continues to believe in the power of sports
investment. We are to celebrate the expansion SportPesa endeavored, if
other companies begin to join in supporting football development for
the better of African communities, the football system will only

It would be wrong to have our hopes to be the predictions of the
future, but SportPesa’s visionary expansion in football industry
demonstrate the great potential for East African football.


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