Ally Hussein Msengi is a star of the future, says Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker.
The 18-year-old Tanzanian made his debut for the team against defending Absa Premiership defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns just over a week ago, and while it was his mistake early in the first half that set up the Brazilians for the only goal of the game, the midfielder impressed his coach.
“I was pleased with his performance,” said Barker, who likens his new recruit to Bafana Bafana midfielder Andile Jali, a player he gave a chance to at the same age 11 years ago when he was coach of University of Pretoria.
“He only just turned 18 and it was his first match at this level.
“The type of opposition and the pressure of playing in front of a good crowd at Athlone Stadium never got to him.
“Yes, he was nervous to start which was understandable, but he grew in stature as the game went on. That was also against two of the best midfielders in the country.”
Msengi was up to the challenge of facing one of the best teams in Africa and felt he had a good debut.
“First, I have to thank coach Steve for trusting and putting me in the starting line-up,” the youngster said.
“As for the experience, I learned a lot from a rival side loaded with players who have years of experience.
“As a team, we have our goals. I have mine too, and I have to make sure that I achieve them by giving everything I have,” he added.
Msengi was recommended to the club by an agent.
Barker and his technical team watched a number of videos on him, and once they were convinced by the video footage, invited him for a two-week assessment at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.
“It did not take him too long to impress us and we started the process to sign him. We had to wait for him to turn 18 in late December of 2019 to be of age to sign a contract,” Barker said.
Msengi’s first taste of football was in Tanzania aged 11. He then joined the Mwanza-based Marsh Athlete Academy a year later in 2014. He participated in a number of Copa Coca-Cola tournaments and caught the eye of the national youth selectors who included him in their Under-15 squad.
“That was the beginning of my soccer journey,” said Msengi, whose role model is Nigerian international midfielder Wilfred Ndidi.
“I played through all the age groups up until Under-23 level and gained a lot of experience from the 30-plus games.
“I then stepped up to our First Division and then Premier League playing for KMC FC for one and a half seasons, before getting a try-out with Stellies last November. They signed me at the start of 2020 and now for the next chapter of my career.”
Stellies currently occupy 11th place on the log standings with six games to play. The league has been suspended due to the coronovirus outbreak.