I hope to immerse you in a fun, exciting and a life time experience that Imani went through to take pictures of Mbwana Samatta’s football match in Genk, Belgium on the 26th of December, 2019.
Imani Nsamila is a young, experienced and published photographer from Tanzania. I spoke to Imani in May, 2018 about his life as a photographer and you may read about him here.
Mbwana Samatta is a renowned Tanzanian football player who became the first Tanzanian to play in the UEFA league. He won Belgian Jupiler League with his football club Genk and you may read more about Samatta here.
The following article is based on a Skype interview I had with Imani Nsamila on the 29th of December, 2019.
I finally got my visa. I booked my ticket to fly out on the 22nd of December, 2019. I was ready to fly to Europe.
22nd of December
I booked a 4 am flight from Dar es salaam through Istanbul to Berlin. I arrived at the Julius Nyerere International Airport at 1 am to avoid any delays. Everything was perfect. So, I thought. Unfortunately, I was denied to fly out that day.
I made a mistake by booking a ticket a day before while my visa was starting on the 23rd of December.
I went back home and booked another flight for the next day instead.
23rd of December
I arrived at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, on the right day this time, boarded my flight and flew to Istanbul. Everything went as smooth as melted butter. So I thought. Our flight arrived very late in Istanbul and I missed my connection to Berlin.
I spent few hours reading, browsing the Internet and watching other travelers while awaiting my connection to Berlin.
The reason I was flying to Berlin was to first meet my brother before going to Brussels.
I arrived. We met, shared some stories, greetings and talked for sometime.
I booked a ticket to Brussels for the next day. He was also traveling so we went together to the airport.
This time I was certain the trip will be as smooth as melted chocolate in Dar’s heat. So I thought.
We were late and we went through security check points. After that we had to run through the airport with our bags. I got to my gate and it was already closed. Luckily, I was allowed to board. It was nothing short of a miracle.
I arrived in Brussels around 11 am. I was expecting to meet a friend and stay at his house. I arrived a bit too early and I spent a fair amount of hours at the airport. He came from work, at last. I went to meet his family at their house.
I received a very warm welcome. One of a kind. We went for dinner at his in-laws house. It was a day to remember.
After some rest, I took a bus to a station nearby and booked a train to Genk. We left the platform around 3 pm.
I‘ve been a guest at Samatta’s home before, it was then very easy for me to find his house this time. I took a taxi and went directly.
His wife opened the door and we greeted each other. Samatta is so kind and nice. He went straight to inviting me for food. They prepared ‘pilau’ with some chicken sauce. However, I wanted to settle in before doing justice to the pilau.
Samatta was watching football highlights when I arrived. Naturally, the discussion that followed after was about football. We talked of the whole kit and caboodle of football. Well, I mainly listened, I mean what do I know?
We shared childhood memories and then jumped into what brought me there. Here’s an insight of what went on before this day. We had already planned with Samatta about going back to work with him after I went there the first time. Samatta made arrangements with his club’s media team about it. We discussed how I had planned my work the next day.
Samatta politely told me that it is important for him to get some rest before any match and so they went to bed earlier than I did.
I worked a little bit more. I was hungry. I remembered the food. I stuffed myself with the really nice pilau they prepared. I drank tap water and finished my meal with some mangoes. I worked a bit longer and went to get some rest as well.
The Match Day
I woke up very early, so I thought. Samatta was already up and about.
We briefly went through what we will work on that day. He left very early in the morning ready for his day job. I packed my work gear as well and followed him to the stadium about an hour later.
I went straight to Genk’s media room and I got a very warm reception especially in this time of the year in Belgium. They were expecting me and they provided me with necessary essentials that would give me access to their football pitch and the lineup information for both teams.
I had a cup of coffee, sipped slowly while awaiting the match.
Pre Match Warm Up
The players got on the pitch. I left the media room and joined them. Fans already swarmed in and you could feel the vibrant energy as they kept filling up the stadium. I took pictures of Samatta and other players while they were warming up.
Something great happened and I was very happy about it. Some people remembered me from the last time I was there. Including the stewards with whom we had a chat and took pictures together.
Genk’s social media manager introduced me Daniel Vukovic, their goalkeeper who was injured, he remembered me from the last time I was there, we made jokes.
Samatta worked. I worked. He was substituted at the 85th minute of the game.
I continued working.