Nairobi — Former Gor Mahia striker Meddie Kagere has proved an instant hit at his new club, Tanzanian giants Simba SC.
He moved for free from Gor, but the Ugandan born-Rwandese international has proved to be a worthy buy for the Dar es Salaam based club, and the fans have not shied away from showing their love for him.
They sing his praises whenever he touches the ball or goes out to warm up and Kagere, nicknamed 'Pacman' during his stint in Kenya has repaid their confidence by scoring vital goals.
He scored two of the three goals as they beat Musa Mohammed's Nkana to book a ticket to the group stages of the CAF Champions League.
On Tuesday evening scored the lone goal as they picked a vital 1-0 win over Egyptian giants Al Ahly in their third group match at the National Stadium, or what they fondly refer to as 'Kwa Mchina'.
Capital Sports sat with the experienced Rwandese international in Dar es Salaam and he has admitted, contrary to his spell at Gor where they nicknamed him 'Luanda Magere', he feels more loved in the streets of Dar.
Q. Simba fans are evidently in love with you. Do you feel more loved here than you did in Kenya?
Kagere: The fans here have a lot of passion and even if you do something small, they will always remember that. Here is not like Nairobi where I used to move freely in the streets and no one stops me. In Dar, if I am going to town for a 10 minute errand, it can take two or three hours. The fans really show they appreciate you and you really feel loved.
Once you deliver in football the rest is left to the fans. If you do what they want you are their friend.
They appreciate when you do wrong, they show disappointment but appreciate more of the good things. They look at your good side more and don't pin out the bad side much.
Q. Has that helped you settle into life in Dar es Salaam?
At first when I came here, they were a bit skeptical because of the history they have had with players coming from Kenya. They said that most players come from Nairobi with a good reputation but fade out when they get here.
I took it as a challenge because once you know that your friends went somewhere and things did not work out, you need to understand why and learn from them. I am a foreign player and I can't be playing like a local. I have to work extra hard.
I have worked hard and proved them wrong. I always want to be on the winning side and that has pushed me to work hard and their support has been great.
Life is all about coping with the situation. As a player, I take myself as a tourist whereby if you get a chance to play somewhere you take it. Life here is okay I am used to it now. It's fun playing for the big clubs. The exciting part is when the team is winning.
Q: You have had a successful start to life here. But one thing didn't work out, you chance of winning a third consecutive SportPesa Cup trophy didn't materialize. Has that dampened your start to life in Simba?
Meddie: It was painful not to win, but life has to go on. There was so much around our campaign because we had a Cup to play in Zanzibar, we had the league to play and then we had the Champions League matches. It was difficult for us to maintain one squad because the coach had to do a lot of rotation.
Winning the SportPesa Cup would have been good because we would have the chance of playing an English Premier League side. But I have already achieved that though I didn't travel to the UK, but all is okay. There will always be a next time.
Q: You helped the team qualify for the group stages of the Champions League with two goals against Nkana. How was that feeling at a fully packed stadium?
Meddie: It was great. It was a target that I had and seeing it fulfilled was brilliant. The team has not been at that stage for 15 years and achieving that was something huge
When I came in, my first target was the season opening Charity Cup. I wanted a medal in Tanzania. The second was the Champions League group stages because at Gor we never got to that level. That's in the bag. The other thing I want now is the league title.
What next now is personal; I want to score more goals, win individual trophies like the top scorer in both champions league and local league that will also help the club win more games, I always want to challenge myself, today if I score two I want to score more tomorrow.
Q. Then there is this issue of your exit from Gor Mahia. You have been accused of 'running away' from the club when they thought you were signing a new contract. What really happened?
Kagere: People thought I ran away from the club. I didn't.
Football is a job. It is not a fantasy or some thing we are playing for fun. You have to leave something to dedicate your life to football. I have my family to take care of and I have my own life to put in a good place. I thin forward. I don't look at the present.
If your contract is finished, you are a free player. If I was under contract then it would have been different. If you are really interested in a player, you don't have to wait until the contract runs out then you start negotiating. You start the conversation early.
You realize that you need a player when it's too late and he has already made up his mind. As a player, I can't go to the office and say 'add me a contract'. That's underestimating myself. I want the office to see my capability and say 'we love you and we want you to renew your contract' then we talk.
Q. So no one talked to you when they knew your contract was almost running out?
Meddie: We played the SportPesa Cup, they knew my contract was almost done. The teams I am playing against are asking about my contract situation and I informed them. The office asked me if I am talking to them but I said no. That's my secret.
If you are clever, this player is performing and you here he is wanted by big teams, what do you do? You capture him, not unless you are not interested.
Gor is a good team and I had a good time there. But sometimes they feel like players can always be replaced because all players want to play for Gor. But they don't put in mind you can never have the same Meddie in the team.
Q. Did all that happened at the end spoil what would have been a beautiful ending for you and Gor?
Meddie: Of course it wasn't right.
After that some people in the office started saying they helped me get back. As a matter of fact they didn't help me. They saw my capabilities and decided to take me back again. They had a player three months before me, but still decided to pay a ticket for me to travel from Rwanda to sign the same contract they had rejected the first time.
I was to go to Zamalek, but I couldn't because the window closed just after I got my visa. I went back home and I could have signed for many clubs. APR, Rayon, AS Kigali they all wanted me to sign so bad. Even a two-month contract. But I was not ready to play at home because I knew what I wanted.
Q: At your age, you are still going strong, playing like a 22-year old. What's the secret?
Age doesn't matter; what matters is what you do in the pitch. When I left Gor, they said I am too old I can't play. When I came here, Azam and Yanga wanted me so bad and they didn't care about the age. They know the work I put on the field and that is what is important for them.
I am there because I know how to keep myself; that's what keeps me in football. Sometimes I tell the young players they will leave start coaching and I will still be playing.
I might be playing until I am 70 years old! As long as I know how to keep myself.