Taifa Cup should be meant to develop youth soccer in Tanzania- Mziray

AT last the long awaited Taifa Cup competition is back thanks to the Tanzania Breweries Limited’s sponsorship through its Safari brand.

Taifa competitions are probably the oldest competitions which involve combined soccer teams from all over the Mainland part of this country. During its earlier days back in the 60s of the last century, the competition was known as the Sunlight Cup, a name derived from then sponsors of the regional competitions – Sunlight Soap Industry.
In the past, Taifa Cup was regarded as the most significant competition in the country and it served a number of roles, including facilitating the selection of the national squad. It was during these competitions when the national soccer coaches spotted and picked players from all over the country.
Unlike the present practice which has made a big number of the national team players to come from Dar es Salaam, the national players of the old days came from different regions and they kept going back to their regions to play for their clubs in the region after playing matches involving the national team.
To be precise, Taifa Cup competitions of the past brought together the best players from all over the country to play in one venue in a knock-out basis whose final saw the best teams fighting for the title. In fact, players who represented their regions enjoyed a lot of respect and esteem from the public and they were seriously dedicated to effectively represent their regions.
Regional combined teams were picked through district competitions which involved the best players from all corners of the regions. By so doing, a good number of talented players from the villages found their way to the national team through their participation in the Taifa Cup competitions.

Players like Yunge Mwanasali, Mohamed Chuma, John Lyimo, Saleh Zimbwe and Athman Mambosasa are just some of the few prominent ex-national players who were spotted and picked during Taifa Cup competitions.
Arguably, matters of affairs have changed so far. The present national team is full of Dar-es Salaam-based players who play for Simba and Yanga. Of course there is a clear justification for this, since Simba and Yanga seize all the best players from all over the country. There has been a long lasting myth that no matter how good a player is, it is hard for him to find his way to the national team unless he plays for Yanga or Simba.
This misconception has led most players to believe that the only way for them to be accepted as equally good players who can be picked to play for the national team was to be Yanga or Simba players. This practice led to a paralysis of a good number of upcountry clubs whose players were hijacked by the two Dar es Salaam-based clubs, Simba and Yanga. Tukuyu for instance, lost all its best players to Yanga and Simba after becoming the Mainland champions in 1986.
The loss of players such as Godwin Aswile, Salum Kabunda, Mbwana Makata, John Alex, Justin Nicodemus Mtekere and thereafter Steven Musa who joined Yanga as well as Michael Kidilu, Aston Pardon and Selemani Mathew who joined Simba left Tukuyu Star with only two strikers; Peter Mwakibibi and Richard Lumumba from its first eleven starters.

The two Tanga-based teams – African Sports and Coastal Union – also suffered the same blow after losing a number of players to the two Dar-es-salaam based clubs.
The present Taifa Cup does not have the same goals of the 1960s which aimed at selecting the best players to form the national team. Taifa Cup competition should be used as a window through which young talented players from all over the country display their expertise in soccer.
It is very sad that the Tanzania Football Federation has not restricted an age limit to the Taifa Cup competitors. The ongoing games would have been more useful to the country’s soccer if youth players were encouraged to take part in.
It is very much unfortunate that most teams will feature the very same players that we have seen in the just ended premier league, an aspect which will not alleviate the ailing state of Tanzania’s soccer standard.
The better future of any nation’s sports excellence depends on how well the youth are prepared at a tender age including inculcating into them competitive experience. Allowing premier league players to feature in the Taifa Cup denies the young upcoming players to display their skills.
Hopefully the future will see some changes for the good future and glory of the country.
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