Portsmouth youngster's ambitious vision to fund footballing change and build a Tanzania legacy for next generation of African players

His international career is still in its infancy, yet ambitious Haji Mnoga is already eyeing constructing a legacy to bequeath Tanzania’s next generation.

Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 2:00 pm

Hailing from Somerstown and capped at England under-17 level, the defender’s allegiances switched to the East African country in March.

Qualifying through dad Suleiman, a former footballer with Arsenal and Cardiff, Mnoga has since made three appearances for his adopted country.

Yet this is no marriage of convenience designed to enhance a promising career, with the 20-year-old’s Tanzanian roots running deep.

As a youngster, Mnoga would often stay in the country’s former capital city of Dar es Salaam during summers accompanying his dad visiting family in neighbouring island Zanzibar.

Indeed, relatives in Tanzania are understandably thrilled at the progress of the ex-Cottage Grove Primary School pupil, who has amassed 15 appearances for the Blues since his October 2018 debut.

And with aspirations of creating his own football foundation in his country, Mnoga is striving to make a difference both on and off the pitch.

He told The Sports Mail: ‘I had been on Tanzania’s radar for quite a while and, during Covid times, received a call-up for their team entering the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations.

Haji Mnoga has ambitions of creating a legacy for the next generation of Tanzanian footballers. Picture: Simon Roe/ProSportsImages

‘I wanted to go, but it would have been difficult because there was a red list of countries. The process involved coming back into England and paying to go into a hotel to quarantine, unfortunately everything would have been too complicated.

‘I sat down with Kenny Jackett and talked about it. We both made the decision that it was probably best to stay in England, so I didn’t end up going.

‘Tanzania did question whether I actually wanted to play for them, but there was more going on at the time, it was the bigger picture around it. Thankfully those issues are no longer around.

‘I don’t speak Swahili fluently, but am actively learning. There is more of an opportunity for me with Tanzania going forward. I’m proud to play for them.

The University of Portsmouth sponsored the final edition of the Sports Mail

‘Hopefully I’ll be able to build myself a legacy. I want to set up a couple of things over there to do with football and put Tanzania on the map.

‘I’m looking at foundations, hopefully eventually making a big impact overall for somewhere which is not a wealthy country.

‘They are really passionate supporters and I want to be someone for people to look up to, I want to inspire the next generation. Whether that’s people in Tanzania to go onto great things in football or those in England who have parents and family there and are eligible to represent the country.

‘Mbwana Samatta became the first Tanzanian to ever play in the Premier League when he joined Aston Villa in January 2020, he is a hero over there. Not many Tanzanians play in the English leagues or any of the major European leagues.

‘Hopefully I can show others it can be done. I want to put my country on the map and I believe I have a good opportunity to achieve that now. I’m proud to play for Tanzania.’

In terms of his Pompey career, Mnoga has benefitted from a successful loan at Weymouth during the second half of last season.

Although viewed as a versatile defender, it’s at centre-half where he views his future, despite the bulk of his Pompey outings coming at right-back.

Danny Cowley agrees, with the 20-year-old earning praise for his pre-season friendly displays as a central defender.

‘I would say I’m a centre-half, but Tanzania have played me at right-back in all three games,’ added Mnoga.

‘I’ve been full-back in a back four and, for the first two games, I thought I did well, but obviously the climate has a massive effect, regularly playing well in excess of 30 degrees and really humid weather.

‘You want to be a full-back that gets up and down, but then it’s quite hard in the heat. You can go on one really big run, then have to run all the way back. In those conditions, it’s tiring.

‘I’m getting used to it, however, and with home and away fixtures against Uganda in the Africa Cup of Nations in September, there'll be plenty more opportunities.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

Whether you're gazing out over the Mediterranean or spending this summer at home, take advantage of our 50% discount on an annual sports or regular digital subscription, from just £25!

We will be on the ball with all the latest Pompey news, match coverage, off-the-pitch features, and analysis from Fratton Park all year round.

Purchase your annual digital package and use promo code SUMSP50 at checkout.