Mbeya still boasts remarkable consistency in Tanzania's football

By Cheji Bakari , The Guardian
Published at 06:00 AM Jul 05 2024
Prisons' players, defender Jumanne Elfadhili (L) and midfielder Lambert Sabiyanka (R) tackle Mtibwa Sugar's player in the just-ended Premier League clash in Morogoro.
Photo: Courtesy of Mtibwa Sugar
Prisons' players, defender Jumanne Elfadhili (L) and midfielder Lambert Sabiyanka (R) tackle Mtibwa Sugar's player in the just-ended Premier League clash in Morogoro.

MBEYA is one of the regions comprising the Southern Highland Zone in Tanzania. Other regions that make the block include Iringa, Njombe, and Songwe. Mbeya covers an area of 35,954 square kilometers, equivalent to 13,882 square miles.

The region is located in a highland valley. Due to its beautiful geographical landscapes such as high mountain peaks, exciting waterfalls, green lakes, a meteorite, and the 'Garden of God', the region is also nicknamed 'Africa's Scotland'.

Apart from other economic activities, Mbeya is extremely famous for rice production and the government has named the region one of the powerhouses for agricultural achievements.

It has played a vital role in diversifying the agriculture landscape and boasts a remarkable contribution to the country's export potential in the cereal market.

Its quality rice has substantially prompted both wholesale and retail traders from some regions to travel in mass to camp in paddy fields and buy rice from both smallholder farmers and big farmers.

Mbeya is further famous for its consistency in soccer development in the country. The region has been successful in the game for over four decades, producing many soccer teams that successfully participated in various football divisions.

It has also groomed footballers who have greatly contributed to the national soccer team, domestic soccer giants Simba SC, Young Africans, and Azam FC, and such outfits as the now-dormant Kajumulo FC and Moro United.

From 1982 to 2024, Mbeya has gone down as the region that has had seven teams in the Premier League, namely Mecco FC, Tukuyu Stars, Mbeya City, Tanzania Prisons, Ihefu SC, Mbeya Kwanza FC, and Ken Gold FC which has got promotion to domestic top flight next season.

Mbeya now has two teams that will feature in the 2024/25 Premier League, namely Tanzania Prisons and Ken Gold FC. 

The region's other outfit, Ihefu SC, shifted to Singida after the culmination of the just-ended Premier League's first phase.

The club, now known as Singida Black Stars, was moved to Singida by new investors - replacing Singida Fountain Gate FC which has moved to Mwanza for similar reasons - and competed in the second phase while residing in Singida.

Mbeya's other teams, Mbeya City and Mbeya Kwanza, are participating in Championship League. Other sides - Mecco FC and Tukuyu Stars - which were quite famous in the past are no longer active on the region's soccer scene.


Tukuyu Stars was established early in 1982 and its headquarters were in Bagamoyo, Tukuyu township. In 1985, the outfit won promotion to the Premier League - which was then termed the Mainland First Division League.

The team surprised domestic football lovers when it, against all odds, went on to clinch the Mainland First Division League top honour and went down the domestic game's record as one of the league's winners.

Famous footballers who played a part in turning Tukuyu Stars into a renowned, successful outfit are, among others, Mbwana Makata, Jimmy Mored, Ikupilika Nkoba, Daudi Kufakunoga, Justin Mtekere, John Alex, Godwin Aswile, Asanga Aswile, Steven Musa, and Aston Padon.


Mecco FC was owned by the then Mwananchi Engineering and Contracting Company Limited (MECCO). The outfit, alongside Tukuyu Stars, brought great competition in Tanzania's soccer landscape during the outfits' heyday.

Famous footballers who donned Mecco FC's kits include Abeid Kasabalala, Rashid Mandanje, Betwel Africa, Ephraim Kayeta, and Danford Ngesi.


It dominated the Premier League for 10 consecutive years after winning promotion to the showdown in the 2013/14 season.

The side's journey in the Premier League was ended by newly-promoted Kigoma's Mashujaa FC when they met in the 2022/23 Premier League promotion/relegation playoffs.

Mashujaa FC, having finished third in the 2022/23 Championship League, garnered the opportunity to take part in the promotion/relegation playoffs against Mbeya City, then sitting in one of the playoff places upon the showdown's conclusion.

JKT Tanzania, Championship League's champion, and runner-up Kitayosce (now Tabora United) won automatic promotion to the Premier League.

The Mbeya City - owned by Mbeya City Council, nicknamed 'Wagonga Nyundo', was earlier known as Rhino Rangers and was headquartered in Tabora.

Rhino Rangers was sold to the game's investors located in Arusha, who opted to move the team to the Northern Tanzania region. Mbeya City Council management then bought the team and moved it to Mbeya.


Mbeya Kwanza FC was established in 2012. It was owned by Coca-Cola Company and it was formed by the company's workers.

It was previously known as Coca-Cola Kwanza FC and, in 2014, it changed its name from Coca-Cola Kwanza FC to Mbeya Warriors and succeeded in participating in the Regional Champions League (RCL).

In 2021, Mbeya Kwanza FC was promoted to the Premier League after dispatching Tanga's African Sports in the final of the Championship League.

The final at Mabatini Stadium in Mlandizi township, Coast Region culminated with forward William Edgar turning into Mbeya Kwanza's hero after drilling in the lone goal which won the tie for his squad.

Despite putting much effort into seeing that Mbeya Kwanza garners success in the 2021/22 Premier League, the side sadly participated in the domestic top flight for one season.

It was a team that started the league poorly and was relegated to the Championship League after losing 2-1 to Ruvu Shooting on June 25, 2022.


Ihefu SC was also established in 2012. It journeyed to the Premier League in 2019 after cruising to victory over Mbao FC of Mwanza in the promotion/relegation playoffs.

The Mbarali District-based outfit beat Mbao FC 2-0 in the first leg at the home venue, Highland Estate Stadium, and later succumbed to a 4-2 defeat to the opponent, making it 4-4 and landing promotion to the top flight thanks to the victory in the first leg.

It played only one season in 2020/21 and was relegated to Championship League the following season. It then crawled back to the top flight in 2022/23, with the then DTB FC (now Singida Fountain Gate FC) also getting promotion. 

Zubeir Katwila had coached Ihefu SC when it featured in the top flight and remained at the club once it faced relegation, guiding the team to win promotion to the top flight.

Ihefu SC relocated to Singida when it landed new investors and became one of the squads that brought great competition to the 2023/24 Premier League. The squad had, in 2023/24, edged Young Africans 2-1 and drawn with Simba SC at its home ground.


Tanzania Prisons FC - owned by Tanzania Prisons Service - is in Mbeya. The squad's home games are played at Sokoine Stadium in the city center. It won promotion to the Premier League in 1995 and, in 1996, took part in the Union League.

It is a squad in the Tanzania soccer landscape, battling it out in the domestic top flight despite its rise and fall. It has hardly been relegated to the Championship League although it has on some occasions turned out to be sluggish.

Its favourite approach is a tough-tackling game, nicknamed 'Pira Gwaride'. Such an approach has made Prisons a threat to opponents, including the most popular sides Simba SC and Young Africans. It also has a good record of beating many of the top-flight teams both home and away.

Apart from taking part in the Premier League, Prisons had featured in the CAF Confederation Cup preliminary stage in 2000.


Ken Gold FC - based in Chunya District - is a new outfit in Mbeya's soccer scene, having won promotion to the domestic top flight in the 2024/25 season.

It booked a place in the top flight following a 2-0 victory over FGA Talents in the 2023/24 Championship League tie at Sokoine Stadium.

The just-concluded season has seen another Mbeya team continue making Mbeya the leading region in fielding teams in the Premier League since 1982.