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We deserve CAF/FIFA full membership, say Zanzibar

Zanzibar players line up before a match at the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

KISUMU, Kenya, Dec 15- Zanzibar head coach Suleiman ‘Morocco’ Hemedi believes the island nation deserves full CAF and FIFA membership to enable them compete in international competitions after their showing at the ongoing CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.

Zanzibar currently cannot take part in African Cup of Nations or World Cup Qualifiers or play FIFA friendly matches. However, their clubs can play in the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup as they are affiliate CAF members.

“No one doesn’t want to get FIFA membership and at the moment, we are showing the world that we deserve that chance. It will be a great opportunity for our players to show what Zanzibar can do in global football and we can’t wait to get that chance,” Hemedi said.

Prior to the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup, Zanzibar who are part of the Republic of Tanzania had not played a single competitive football game as a national team since the last Senior Challenge Cup in Ethiopia two years ago.

Hemedi admits that it is depressing for the players and football fans back at home lacking the opportunity to play as a national team and hopes that soon enough they will earn that birthright.

“This (CECAFA) is our only chance to prove our worth and show that we have talent in Zanzibar and players who can work. Hopefully it is going to catch someone’s attention” the tactician noted.

Zanzibar head coach Suleiman ‘Morocco’ Hemedi confers with one of his assistants. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

The team has done remarkably well at the ongoing Senior Challenge Cup and will be playing defending champions Uganda in the semi-final on Friday afternoon in Kisumu.

They have played remarkably well, finishing second in Group A behind Kenya after losing their final match against Libya, but had been the first team to book a last four ticket.

Their journey to Kenya wasn’t the smoothest. While other teams, including their brothers and neighbors Tanzania Mainland flew in to the country for the tournament, Zainzibar travelled by boat to Dar es Salaam then by bus to Machakos via Mombasa.

“The good thing is that we have accepted ourselves the way we are. We are weak financially and we can’t afford all those fancy travels and allowances but we have organized ourselves very well even with the little that we have. We believe in ourselves and we want to get good results whatever the circumstances,” the tactician added.

The coach also added that before they earn full FIFA status, more Zanzibar players should earn call ups to the main national team, Taifa Stars, after showing that they are up to task and can play equally well.

Zanzibar left back Haji Mwinyi closes in on Tanzania Mainland’s Boniface Maganga during a CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Tanzanian mainland head coach Amy Ninje has meanwhile said Zanzibar has been one of the best teams in the tournament and has tipped them to lift the title.

“Zanzibar is a big deal in this tournament and no one should underrate them. They will win this tournament without a problem. I have seen how they play and their dedication and I know they can do it,” Ninje said.

Tanzania Mainland performed dismally, finishing bottom of Group A with a single point. Ninje who is one of the assistant coaches at the main national team has apologized to Tanzanians for the performance and took full responsibility for it.

“Results have not been good and I am not happy. I apologize to all Tanzanians; we have done badly but we have learnt from our failures. I can’t blame the players they did their best. This was the group of death. We started well, but the second loss dropped our confidence, but it’s the nature of football,” the tactician who has worked in England with Hull City said.

He says moving forward, the team should delve into deeper talent search to get younger players who are dynamic and can comfortably play fast, flowing football.