Dar es Salaam. The minister responsible for, among other things, sports, Emmanuel Nchimbi, was on the spot last week when he absolved Danish Taifa Stars’ coach, Jan Paulsen, over the team’s exit from the Africa Nation’s Cup (Afcon).
Indeed, anyone in his or her right senses will think in the same way the minister thinks over the senior national soccer team’s run of poor performance.The minister who was taking part in a telecast debate through the TBC television in Butiama, Mara Region was visibly frustrated over Taifa Stars’ continued failure to do well in Afcon qualifiers.
And as has been in the past, Taifa Stars once again failed to qualify for the Afcon finals after collecting five points from as many matches.As rightly noted by the minister, the team’s decimal performance does not lie on the coach or the technical bench for that matter, but rather on its preparations. And when one talks about preparations here, it does not mean spending days on end in residential training, far from it, but rather playing quality trial matches.
Before the start of the just ended Afcon qualifier as far back as last year, I stressed to the TFF through newspaper columns (Daily News and The Citizen), on the need to organize as many quality friendly matches as possible for the team, but as expected the advice fell on deaf ears.
In fact, the same problem that afflicts Taifa Stars, equally affects our top clubs, Simba and Young Africans, who have repeatedly failed to click in continental clubs’ tournaments.
Tournaments in tournaments out, the so -called big guns are knocked out of the preliminaries so much so that even the premier league which helps us in getting representatives for the continent’s Club Champions and Confederation Cups have lately lost its meaning.
Yes, how can we continue celebrating getting tickets for such high profile continental club tournaments when we don’t seem to be getting anywhere?
Let’s face it, given our continued failure to go beyond the preliminaries of continental clubs tournaments are clubs like Simba and Young Africans better than Toto Africans and Azam FC.
Taifa Stars and our leading clubs will never get anywhere in international soccer tournaments as long as they continue to prepare for such tournaments at home, ignoring trial matches against top-flight foreign teams.
Now how do we get ourselves out of this cul-de-sac? Do we need to be armed in rocket science in order to transform our teams into winning ways?
The truth is, we don’t. As I had occasion to point out in the past, for a start, the TFF must make it mandatory for all clubs taking part in the premier league to have youth teams in their stables.
Secondly, the TFF must make it mandatory for such teams to sign most of their players from their own juvenile teams and other locally based soccer academies.
Thirdly, our soccer fathers should ensure that youthful players take part in the premier league.
The federation needs to come up with a clause in its regulations that would bar clubs from signing foreign players who no longer represent their national soccer teams. Yes, only players who will help local clubs raise their soccer standard should be signed and not former national players!
Having implemented the foregoing, club leaders, including Taifa Stars’ handlers, should then ensure that the teams play more trial matches at home and abroad against high quality opponents.
It is only by playing against top-flight foreign opponents in trial matches that respective technical benches would be able to gauge their teams/players’ response to training.
For instance, as far as Taifa Stars are concerned, surely one should not expect them to do well in the Afcon tournament after playing less than five trial matches against as weak opponents as the Palestinian national soccer team.
What has always beaten me is this belief that we can do well in Afcon qualifiers through the use of almost the same players for the last six or so years.Yes, somebody ought to come forward and explain to me how we could expect, for the last six years, to continue depending on the services of aging players the likes of Nsajigwa, Haroub, Machupa, Kaseja, Henry Joseph and Nizar Khalfan.
I have always wondered why we have continued to ignore players from Coca-Cola tournaments.For the last three or so years, Tanzania has been represented in South Africa and Brazil by national soccer teams made out of youthful players from Coca-Cola tournaments. The million dollar question is of course why are we not making use of such youthful players?
If a country like Botswana with a population of less than 1.5million can produce a qualifying national team for the Afcon finals out of its juvenile teams, why can’t Tanzania with a population of over 20 million youths?