Barbara Gonzalez: The CEO changing perceptions in Tanzanian football

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lily
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Barbara Gonzalez: The CEO changing perceptions in Tanzanian football

Post by lily » Fri Sep 18, 2020 9:27 am

Barbara Gonzalez: The CEO changing perceptions in Tanzanian football

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Facing prejudice because of her age and gender is something Barbara Gonzalez has grown accustomed to since being appointed a board member of one of Africa's most followed football teams.

Last week, two years after taking her place on the board of Tanzanian champions Simba, the 30-year-old was made the first female CEO of any football club in the country.

Ultimately, the club's estimated 20 million supporters will be hoping she gets it right but in the shorter term she has been having to prove herself to a far smaller crowd.

"I have gone to two or three league meetings where they look at me thinking 'What does this woman know about anything? What does this young person know?'," Gonzalez tells BBC Sport Africa.

"They look at me and assume I am not Tanzanian so they'll say it behind my back and I look at them and I quickly hit them with a response in our local language, they step back and it ends there."

Both her surname and looks - with her late father having hailed from Colombia - had caught out some football officials who were clearly unaware that Gonzalez had grown up in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania's largest city.

A bold move
But she is bucking the trend in other ways too - not least of all the fact that her appointment represents a bold and bright significant step in local football administration.

"In football, these appointments, not to be biased, are typically seasoned men in their 50s and 60s who have been there and it tells you how progressive Simba is because they don't want to do business as usual," says Gonzalez.

"I have to work twice as hard, not only because I am a woman and young, but because we are still in Africa where respect goes to those who are seasoned, while additional respect is given to men."

Some Simba fans, including a member of parliament, have publicly questioned the criteria used to appoint Gonzalez - especially in comparison to her predecessor.

Plenty to offer
While her experience of football is understandably more limited given her age, Gonzalez arrives with an impressive CV.

After studying economics in the US, development management in England and various internships in the United Nations, Gonzalez's first job upon returning home to Tanzania in 2014 was as a public sector consultant for a leading financial group.

Just two years later, she was poached by local billionaire Mohamed Dewji, working as both the head of his foundation and chief of staff.

This involved working on accounts involving millions of dollars, including at least one that totalled $25m, so when Dewji bought a 49% stake in Simba in 2017 he knew where to turn.

Further details are available here. : pg

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