DAR ES SALAAM: Former Orlando Pirates forward Bernard Morrison couldn’t have ‘chosen’ a better time to be suspended. Certainly.
The knotty ex-Bucs man has made Tanzania’s Vodacom Premier League his enclave after a stint with DRC side DC Motema Pemba, which came straight after his time at the Buccaneers.
The Ghanaian – thanks to his sublime skills and scoring aptitude – was swift to endear himself with fans when he joined Young Africans. His derby strike – a well struck free-kick against Simba SC – during his short stint with the 27-time Premiership champions secured a place in the hearts of the club’s faithful.
So, there was a day the man from Mankessim – a town in the Central Region of Ghana, approximately 75 km west of the capital Accra – shone in Yanga colours to a point that fans ‘baptised’ him with thousands of Tanzanian Shillings. Of course, the Shillings he received weren’t as strong as the South African rand. TZS150 000 (Tanzanian currency) would only convert to R100.
But that didn’t matter on the day – all that mattered was how the fans felt about his contribution.
For a foreigner who had just descended on the shores of the country that is home to Mount Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain – the gesture went a long way. It was the beginning of a love affair that would soon be short-lived. Yanga fan Alnorld Thomas Manamba, 21, who hails from Arusha, some 625 km from Dar es Salaam, says it didn’t take him too long to fall in love with Morrison.
“We loved him from the onset,” Manamba, who works at Euro Hotel and Apartments where the FARPost crew is resident, says. “He gave us a different kind of football and dominated our league,” he adds.
His derby strike gave Yanga the bragging rights – just like Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs fans have a go at each other when either of them loses a derby. Seems it was a two-way affair. “I remember my first game here was in Singida and after the match, many fans descended on me. At first, I thought they were going to take pictures with me but surprisingly, they started giving me money like 10,000, 5,000 and even 1000.
“When I counted it after arriving home, it amounted to almost 500,000 something which has never happened in my professional career,” said Morrison, who is playing for the seventh club of his eight-year professional career. By the way, it was not the last time he would be lavished with gifts from fans. After scoring against Namungo FC, he was given four live chickens by fans.
But while the Yanga fans were still enjoying their romance with the 5 feet 10 inch (1.78 m) tall winger, he made a provocative switch to their rivals. That brave switch makes him one of the few players who’ve had the ‘liver’ to cross the divide in unglamorous fashion.
“I was heartbroken when he left, he still had a lot to offer to us,” Manamba says as he shakes his head as if still in disbelief. “The manner in which he left didn’t make matters any better as well, it was fights and not right for someone we had welcomed with open hands.”
The hullabaloo started when Morrison was reported to have penned a two-year extension with Yanga, also nicknamed the Historical Champions for their record title triumphs. The club, through its official Instagram account, enthusiastically confirmed the ‘new deal’.
But the bubble would soon be burst by insistent reports that he was on the verge of joining their arch-rivals Simba SC. The 27-year-old then made it worse by refuting the claims, insisting that he was committed to Yanga. When it later emerged he had indeed ‘betrayed’ them, the club lodged a complaint with the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), who later cleared him to play for Simba.
“Yanga is a big team and Simba is also a big club and moving from Yanga to Simba it is not really a big deal, though the (Yanga) supporters are disappointed and the management are disappointed, it is part of football. It happens so I don’t think they have to see me as a bad person, in moving from Yanga to Simba because it is part of football and they have to accept it and move on and welcome me to Tanzanian football,” he said.
So, when the Kariokoo Derby takes place today (Saturday) at 5pm (4pm South African time) the fans of the club that benefited from the callous switch will be hoping he was donning their red and white jersey. Understanding what his absence means, he sought for forgiveness after he was slapped with a three-match ban following his violent conduct during their Mainland Premier League match against Ruvu Shooting on Monday.
Morrison was involved in a physical altercation with Juma Nyoso – who has also been banned and fined – after Simba had been awarded a penalty in the 71st minute. But Nyoso’s ban won’t matter as much as the Ghanaian’s does today.
Even worse, Simba went on to lose the match 1-0, their second straight defeat in the topflight, as they had lost by the same margin to Tanzania Prisons three days earlier. In essence, they go into the much-publicised derby – that FARPost’s crew travelled to over a combined four-hour flight – a wounded lion.
Tanzania Premier League Board (TPLB) confirmed on Thursday they had banned the player for three matches and also fined him. “Simba player (Bernard) Morrison has been banned from featuring in three matches for hitting (Juma) Nyoso of Ruvu Shooting. Nyoso, on his part, has been fined TSh500,000 and a three-match ban given for intentionally stepping on Morrison,” a Premier League Board statement read.
A seemingly remorseful Morrison, who made his first Black Stars appearance in 2015, asked for forgiveness from the club’s fans. “We all do things for the love of the club but we sometimes get it wrong. I’m with you the fans and the team for the next 3 games in spirit. I’m really sorry for my actions in the previous game, I ask for your forgiveness,” Morrison wrote on his social media pages.
The Yanga against Simba encounter was expected to be highlighted by Morrison’s presence given that his August move created friction that is yet to be settled by either side and the Tanzania Football Federation. Although the Players’ Status Committee declared Morrison a free agent paving way for his Simba move, Yanga are still contesting the legality of the contract which they have maintained is legally deficient.
Perhaps, a win by Simba at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium will earn him the forgiveness he’s asked for.
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By Mthokozisi Dube
reporting from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania