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'Hooliganism': Tanzania decries army siege of football team hotel in Madagascar

Madagascar's army stopped Tanzanians from playing World Cup qualifier, accusing them of submitting false COVID-19 tests

Kizito Makoye   | 18.11.2021
'Hooliganism': Tanzania decries army siege of football team hotel in Madagascar

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania

Tanzania has criticized Madagascar for the “act of hooliganism” against its football team during their weekend visit for a World Cup qualifier.

The Tanzanian side, known as the Taifa Stars, was in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo for Sunday’s fixture, hunting a big win in the last group match of the qualifiers to stay in contention for a spot at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

However, a 1-1 draw dashed Tanzania’s World Cup dreams and gave already eliminated Madagascar something to celebrate.

The real drama, though, happened off the pitch as the Tanzanians found their hotel swarmed by the Madagascar army just hours before kickoff.

Videos posted on social media accounts of the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) showed armed soldiers stationed outside the rooms of all players and staff.

The army claimed some Tanzanian players had submitted false negative COVID-19 tests and would not be allowed to leave the hotel.

Eventually, three players – Aishi Manula, Mbwana Samatta and Bakari Mwamnyeto – were detained in their rooms and given another COVID-19 test as the Taifa Stars left for the game.

However, all three tested negative and were allowed to travel back to Tanzania with the team after the match.

“This was an act of hooliganism against our team,” Athumani Nyamlani, the TFF’s first deputy president, told Anadolu Agency, terming the incident a deliberate plan to weaken the Tanzanian side.

However, he said Tanzania does not plan to pursue the matter or take any action against Madagascar because the players were allowed to return home.

Raoul Arizaka Rabekoto, president of the Malagasy Football Federation, said the incident was “unfortunate” but there were no “bad intentions” as the players were allowed to leave after the second virus test, according to report by the Madagascar Tribune newspaper.

Clifford Ndimbo, a TFF spokesperson, was particularly irked by the “unprofessional and arrogant” attitude of the Madagascar army, and alluded to a possible “hidden agenda” against Tanzania.

Taifa Stars player Simon Msuva said the incident casts Madagascar in a bad light and called for an apology.

“We were demoralized and shaken up. We could have performed better in the game,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Tempers have flared in Tanzania over the incident, especially since the draw in Madagascar knocked the Taifa Stars out of the World Cup race.

In response to public calls for action, Hassan Abbas, a senior official in Tanzania’s Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, stressed that the issue would be handled in a diplomatic manner and through proper channels.​​​​​​​

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