Let us make 2011 a successful year

Kilimanjaro stars first-choice goalie Juma Kaseja is carried shoulder high by Idrisa rajab after their 1-0 win over Cote d’Ivoire in the Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup final in Dar es Salaam, Cote d’Ivoire competed in the tournament as a guest team

Dar es Salaam. The dust is still settling after the New Year celebrations. How wonderful it was for us, as we witnessed the opening of yet another chapter in our lives!It is January once again and we have a great opportunity to make 2011 significant, as well as memorable. That is how to make a cross-over in style.

But a serious question looms over 2011 and that is whether it will be really as happy and prosperous as each and every year is wished to be.

Reasons behind the question are plenty and obvious. For years, Tanzanian sports enthusiasts have been expectantly ushering a new year with all sorts of celebrations, only to be frustrated at the end of it.

Last year, which parted with us on Friday midnight, was no exception. Following tradition, it received a tumultuous welcome full of hopes, but as it went away, it left the dejected local sports fans cursing vehemently.

Indeed, if there was any achievement in 2010, then it was too minimal to be proud of. Only few of the set targets were attained, and at most the nation continued to be subjected to shame, shame ever.

The Ministry of Information, Sports and Culture (now ministry of Information, Youth, Sports and Culture) had signaled a new turn in the development of sports in the country, and this made everyone believe that the adage “all that ends well begins well” would be proved right.

In his New Year message, former Deputy Minister Joel Bendera said his ministry had dedicated 2010 to stamping out corruption, embezzlement of funds meant for sports development and all evil deeds within the sports circles

The ministry had also emphasized the importance of youth teams that would serve as breeding grounds for future stars, and preservation of open spaces to give talented youngsters avenue to display their untapped talents. It can feel proud that its war against indiscipline in the sports field recorded some success. Let us review some cases to support the point.

The Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), on one hand, did not hesitate to take stern disciplinary action against referees, club officials and players it felt had violated the norms of good sportsmanship.

And just as the year (2010) started, the TFF competitions committee slapped fines and suspensions ranging from one to three months to a number of players, club officials and referees for alleged indiscipline, gross misconduct and match-fixing.

On the other hand, the federation’s stance against violence of the norms had a telling effect on some players and referees. They include renowned referee Othman Kazi, who suffered an indefinite ban, which forced him to call it quits.

Turning to the other side of the coin, it will be seen that most of the ministry’s and national associations’ objectives ended in files. No wonder the country was poorly represented in most of the international competitions it took part.

Save for the national women’s golf team and Tanzania Mainland’s Kilimanjaro Stars, which to some extent managed to give local fans something to smile about, the rest of the teams performed poorly in the competitions they took part.

As the year inched towards the end, Kilimanjaro Stars, now coached by Jan Poulsen, defied the odds to win the Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup for the first time in sixteen years in Dar es Salaam.

The women golfers made history last year by finishing runners-up during the Africa championship in Nigeria. Their brothers were mere participants in last year’s international competitions.

On the club front, soccer teams were undoubtedly the worst of all. The so-called soccer giants Simba and Young Africans were the first to set the wagon on bad track. Both were ungracefully eliminated in the preliminaries of the CAF club championships.

Basketball, cricket and netball were no better. Troubled Basketball Federation of Tanzania (BFT) failed to even organize the national championship last year due to what it claimed as financial constraints.

On cricket and women’s soccer as well as netball, there was minor consolation. The national women’s soccer team, Twiga Stars, managed to make it into the Africa championship finals in South Africa for the first time since the team’s incision.

However, their dreams to make an impact in the South Africa finals went up in thin smoke as they ended their campaign with no point. They lost all their group stage matches to the disappointment of local sports fans.

Tanzania cricket had mixed fortunes. While the national U-19 women’s team finished runners-up in the East and Central Africa youth championship in Dar es Salaam, the senior team failed even to make their presence felt in the ICC World Cup qualifiers, Africa zone in Nairobi, Kenya.

The most disappointing performance, however, was by the national soccer team, Taifa Stars. Comprising the “best breed” of players from Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar, the success-starved team lost to tinny Rwanda in a preliminary qualifier of the Chan championship.

So painful was the defeat that some football stakeholders asked TFF to terminate its contract with then team head coach, Brazilian Marcio Maximo.

With this chain of defeats at the international stage, the only teams that deserve a pat on the back are none other than golf and women’s soccer.

Their performance was an encouraging trend, so to say, but much more has to be done to restore the country’s dented pride in international competitions.

We must start now to turn our dream of a prosperous new year into reality. Otherwise, 2011 will leave us wondering aloud but with no sound solution.
Happy New!

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