ON Tuesday night, this week, I happened to be viewing one of Kenya’s television channels, the KTN News, and happened to bump into an anchor woman interviewing former Germany international, Lothar Matthaeus.
What I learnt was that the former 1990 Fifa World Cup winner was apparently in the East African country at the sponsorship of a Chinese media company, Star Times.
For those who may not know Lothar Matthaeus, this is one of the best attacking midfielders that the world has ever seen. And, during the 1990 Fifa World Cup, which also saw Cameroon becoming the first African nation to reach the quarter final of the tournament, Matthaeus helped Germany to win the coveted trophy.
The tournament would also go on to produce prob ably one of the first coaches to win the same tournament both as a player and coach in Franz Beckenbauer. Beckenbauer first won the Fifa World Cup as a player in 1974 when the then West Germany beat the Netherlands by 2-1 in the finals held in Munich during the tournament which was hosted by West Germany.
The second time was during Italia 90, this time as a coach. But why am I making all these noises, of all players under the sun, about this German soccer player? Well, I’m today writing about this great player because of what he was quoted as saying by one of the most popular German paper, The Bild, in 1989.
I had just arrived in West Germany for a German, Tanzania Journalist attachment programme funded by the Heinz Kuehn Stiftung when I came across what Matthaeus had said in the German paper after a stint as a professional player for Italy’s AC Milan.
What Matthaeus said has a lot of relations with what Tanzania’s Taifa Stars are currently going through, namely, repeated failure to do well in qualification matches both for the continental and Fifa World Cup tournaments.
In an interview with the Bild, Matthaeus was quoted as saying in German, ‘Mailand hat uns stark gemackt,’ In English this would read; AC Milan has made us strong. Matthaeus had said what I have quoted above after he had along with other German players left their country to play professional football for AC Milan and other Italian top flight clubs.
It was the first time that many German players had left the comfort zone of their Bundesliga to play in Italy and other countries in Europe. And the end result of that soccer expedition would not only expose West German players to more competitive league, but would also later catapult them into winning the 1990 Fifa World Cup.
Since then Germany which has since October 3rd 1990 been united, once again as one nation, after its division following its defeat against the Allies in the Second World War, have never looked back as far as playing outside their country is concerned.
And that has strengthened not only their players, but also their national soccer team that has in turn seen them winning the Fifa World Cup four times. As you read this column today, Germany is not only the reigning Fifa World Cup champions, but has equally been doing very well in other global soccer tournaments which includes their recently Fifa World Cup U-21 not to talk of the sterling performance of their women national soccer team.
Germany has been well because of its deliberate deci sion to ensure that its players and coaches practice both at home and abroad and that is what Tanzania need to do and as matter of urgency.
The other day I asked a young Tanzanian soccer enthusiast when he felt Tanzania would qualify for the Fifa World Cup finals and the young man said, without mincing words, “when Tanzania would be able to field the entire Taifa Stars team with all players who are playing professional football in Europe.”
If you asked me for my opinion on what the young man had told me, my answer is the same and that is, until and unless we have more than eleven players playing professional soccer in top flight clubs in Europe and not in the Middle East or Africa, we will never qualify for Afcon or Fifa World Cup finals.
Yes, how can we qualify for the foregoing tournaments when our players have not been playing against the best in the world? For us to qualify for the two touched soccer finals, we firstly need to change the way we prepare our players, through haphazard training.
We need to do what other countries have been doing, train our players from their tender age through scientifically developed and run soccer academies. I have nothing to say more than what I have said for that ultimately holds the key to future soccer success.
And ignore what I have said and we will perpetually remain in the doldrums. The question which we now ought to ask ourselves is if powerful soccer nation like Germany can do that why not us? Interestingly, another country which like Tanzania has failed to click because of the same reason, clinging to their home league, is Britain.
The last time Britain won the Fifa World Cup was in 1966, and even then because they had hosted the tournament. British soccer players have been reluctant in playing outside their country and the result is that their players have failed to grow beyond the English Premier League which is arguably one of the best leagues in the world, but mostly because of the presence of many top flight foreign players.
Just like Tanzania, Britain also needs to change if they want to do better internationally as far as soccer is concerned.