Castro Chola, a 20-year-old footballer, minced no words on a cool Monday evening when he said his aim is to break the football ceiling and become the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of Tanzania.
Castro expressed his steely determination to reach the heights of football shortly after the Ndondo Cup semifinal match between Madenge Football Club and Keko Furniture Football Club at Kinesi grounds in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
Asked why he thought he could be a football star like Ronaldo and Messi, the young footballer attributed his determination to Ndondo Cup, a street clubs championship organized by Clouds Media Group that aims to unleash and seek talents in football in Tanzania.
Madaraka Selemani, a retired Tanzanian footballer who played for the country’s national team and Simba Sports Club, one of the country’s leading football giants, praised Ndondo Cup as a breeding ground for young footballers.
“Ndondo Cup deserves support from football authorities in Tanzania. Many young men are interested in playing football. They should be supported by all means,” said Madaraka who played football between 1985 and 1994.
Yahya Mohamed, well known as Mkazuzu, the coordinator of Ndondo Cup, told Xinhua in an interview that the Ndondo Cup championship targets street football clubs and those in the lower divisions.
He said Clouds Media Group, a multi-media company based in Dar es Salaam, in collaboration with the Dar es Salaam Football Association, founded Ndondo Cup in 2014 to provide opportunities to young footballers who have talents but had no avenue to unleash their talents.
“During the Ndondo Cup tournament, coaches and scouts from first division football teams and the premier league pick players to play for their teams. Ndondo Cup has also produced players for the national football team,” said Mohamed.
He said the tournament is also visited by foreign football scouts from Kenya, Uganda and Zambia and as far as Türkiye and Israel that have shown interest in signing players participating in the tournament.
Mohamed said Tanzania’s premier league leading scorer in 2021 season George Mpole who plays for Geita Gold Mine Football Club is a product of Ndondo Cup.
He said this is the 9th season since Ndondo Cup was launched, adding that the 2022 season that began in May and ends on August 28 attracted 92 football clubs from Dar es Salaam, Ruvuma and Mara regions. Each club had 25 players, he said.
“Ndondo Cup is also shaping football referees, coaches and leaders. Some of the referees in this tournament are promoted to referee in the premier league,” said Mohamed.
However, Mohamed said poor infrastructure, including playing grounds and poor management of street football clubs, are among challenges that the tournament is facing.
Mohamed said future plans for Ndondo Cup is to spread the tournament to the whole of east Africa, adding that they have already held talks with officials in Kenya on the need to launch an east African kind of Ndondo Cup.
“And in future we intend to make it an African Ndondo Cup. We believe with sheer determination we can realize that goal,” said Mohamed.