Danish tactician Jan Poulsen took over Kilimanjaro Stars scarcely in August, where he was still being fumbled with names and even whom to call up after his symbol-laden first out win over much-fancied Algeria in an underdogs night of Africa Cup of Nations preliminaries.
He showed to be an excellent coach right from the start as his assistants started singing the praises of the team and the attitude they adopted as the reason for the win, while he remained unmoved. He knew it was a fluke but didn’t say so, merely cautioned that “the hard work had only just begun,” and proceeded to restructure the side.
A week after Taifa Stars was basking in the usually fickle glory from the fans, which comes with a win in a tough match, and could turn to stone throwing and obscenities two weeks later when the side loses, went down to work. Without waiting until he grasped the language clearly, or learnt ‘the psychology of the players’ as some zealots have been saying is the reason African teams should be given to past stars of the game in Africa
and not tacticians like Poulsen or his predecessor Marcio Maximo
, he went out to seek players. He knew the language of their play – in body movement, the ball control, the speed, etc.
The results have not taken long to show, as Kilimanjaro Stars, carbon copy of Taifa Stars which zealots are pushing should be split from them – where a couple of players from Zanzibar
will be added – have given their best yet in the showcase regional tournament. They reached the final of the tourney where chances of victory were high as the local side, but remained dimmed by the fact that they reached the final with a penalty shoot-out. It was the same manner defending champions Uganda
Cranes reached the semifinal, and lost that way, if their opponents arrived with a clean win, they become favourites.
While no rules exist that this should be the case, it makes sense at two levels, first the manner of result in the preceding match shows team strength overall, as ability to score or use an opportunity isn’t just a fluke action from a player, or from another player’s lack of attention. Subtle weaknesses or hidden elements of superiority in this or that department, physical fitness, attitude to the game, are brought out in the full length of 90 minutes or 120 minutes, and even in how penalties are taken, that being a penultimate level of contest.
A clear win without reply attests to team strength, not a happy accident.
Still the side’s hero was likely to be Juma Kaseja (pictured), as penalty shootouts
are the worst nightmare any keeper expects to go through, apart from the fact that they aren’t easy for the shooters either. In all the team has demonstrated to be having the character to withstand competition at that level. Its special mark of quality was to recover from a loss in the second match, without diminished self esteem.