There are two things we’re passionate about here at YPT – football and offbeat travel. So when we were presented with the opportunity to team up with a football club from the island of Zanzibar we jumped at the chance! So if you’ve become disillusioned with the glitz and glamour of modern football look no further than Chuoni Football Club from the Zanzibar Premier League!
Here’s a quick rundown of football in Zanzibar, as it’s probably best to grasp some kind of understanding of the football scene in Zanzibar before becoming a Chuoni Ultra. Viva Chuoni!
What is Zanzibar?
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous archipelago off the coast of Tanzania consisting of two large islands: Unguja (the main island, usually referred to as Zanzibar), Pemba Island, as well as around 50 smaller neighbouring islands. Although it’s officially part of Tanzania, it differs in almost all aspects including politics, religion, culture and food.
The geographical location of Zanzibar had it directly on the Indian Ocean trade route making it accessible to traders from the Arabian peninsula, south Asia and Africa. As such, Zanzibar became the centre of the slave and spice trades. To this day the islands are a melting pot of loads of different types of influences including African, Arabic, European, Indian and Asian.
These days Zanzibar is popular with tourists as there is a lot to see and to do on the islands. One of the biggest draws is of course the year-round scorching weather and the miles of white sandy beaches. So if lying around catching a golden tan is your thing, Zanzibar is perfect! However, there’s so much more to the islands than just beaches!
As mentioned earlier, Zanzibar was an important stop for the spice trade and Zanzibar is still one of the few places in the world where saffron is still produced. You can also find a tonne of other spices being grown on the islands including cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and anise. The islands capital Stone Town is also well worth a visit. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site mainly down to its architecture. Stone Town is crammed with architecture influences which create a unique mixture of Arabian, Persian, Indian and European elements.
Throw in forests packed with wildlife, ancient sacred caves, bustling old and new markets and not forgetting the crystal clear ocean for snorkelling, scuba diving and whatever water sport tickles your fancy – you’ll never be short of things to do in Zanzibar.
Anyway, now you have a little background of Zanzibar let’s delve into the world of football on the islands.
Football in Zanzibar
As with the majority of countries in Africa, football is the most popular sport in Zanzibar. Founded in 1926, the Zanzibar Football Federation (ZFF) is the governing body for all football-related activities in Zanzibar. Despite being officially part of Tanzania, the ZFF is run as a completely separate entity to the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF). Relations between the ZFF and the TFF have always been rocky and as such the separation has caused some difficulties for the ZFF.
The ZFA were made a member of the African football governing body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 2004. The next step for the ZFF was to gain full membership into FIFA but their efforts proved to be fruitless. The FIFA committee decided that it would continue to regard Zanzibar as an affiliate of Tanzania, their reasons being that in their eyes Zanzibar is not recognized by the international community nor was it likely to be in the foreseeable future.
This means that the Zanzibar national football team is not eligible to enter national CAF competitions such as the African Cup of Nations but Zanzibar’s Football Clubs get representation at the CAF Confederation Cup and the CAF Champions League. In fact, as FIFA refuse to recognise Zanzibar as a country players from Zanzibar are eligible to play for the Tanzania national team.
Zanzibar Premier League
Zanzibar have their own Premier League which was founded in 1981, supplemented by a second division and their own FA Cup. The current champions are Mlandege FC, but the league is fairly competitive. There have been 5 different league winners in the past six years. The league is comprised of 16 teams who play each other twice over the course of the season. The winners of the league earn a spot in the prestigious African Champions League, and receive the opportunity to ply their skills amongst Africa’s best teams.
Unfortunately for Mlandege, their Champions League run this season was nothing short of a disaster. As you can imagine, Zanzibari footballers aren’t the most technically gifted footballers around, so when they were drawn to play CS Sfaxien of Tunisia in the first preliminary round of the Champions League we were already fearing for them. They were comprehensively beaten 8-1 over two legs and sent back to the islands empty-handed!
Chuoni Football Club
As we mentioned earlier, we’ve teamed up with Chuoni Football Club to become their official travel partners and a shirt sleeve sponsor. Chuoni were founded in October 1984 by students from a local school, but the team have since expanded to cover the whole of Zanzibar. The club are based on Unguja Island and play their home games at one thousand capacity Kianga Mento Ground.
During the 2012-13 season, Chuoni were runners up in the Zanzibar Premier League and subsequently qualified for the CAF Champions League for the first time ever. They were rewarded with a tricky tie against Zimbabwean outfit ‘How Mine’. Unfortunately for Chuoni, How Mine proved to be a step too far. A 4-0 defeat away in Zimbabwe was followed up with a 2-1 home defeat in the second leg saw them crash out at the first hurdle.
Despite this, we have high hopes for the boys. We’re always looking for new destinations to take our pioneers to, and Zanzibar might be the next new destination on our list. The new Zanzibar Premier League season has just kicked off so we’re hoping to see some good results in the coming weeks. So who knows? Hopefully, we’ll be able to see YPT’s logo in the African Champions League for years to come..