Why participation in regional soccer tourneys critical
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FEARS have already been expressed over the TFF’s decision to allow Taifa Stars to take part in the CECAFA Challenge Cup tournament slated for Kenya from November 25th to December 9th 2017.

One of the arguments peddled around is that because the tournament, that has missed in the regional soccer calendar for the last three years, would be held outside Fifa organized international friendly matches regional teams would have to rely on their local players.

Secondly, Tanzania’s involvement in the revived regional soccer tournament would disrupt the schedule of the on-going Vodacom Premier League. I totally agree with the expressed concerns, but then what is the alternative of not taking part in the regional soccer tournament, and in particular, for a country which does not organize international friendly matches for its clubs and national soccer teams?

For over three decades, Tanzania is infamously known for throwing its teams, clubs and national soccer teams in international soccer tournaments without exposing its teams to international friendly matches.

And because of the foregoing habit, Tanzania has always failed to perform well in such international soccer tournaments that includes, among others, qualifications for Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and the Fifa World Cup.

In fact, the last time Tanzania qualified for the Afcon soccer tournament was 37 years ago in 1980 in Lagos, Nigeria, when Taifa Stars was under the tutelage of Joel Bendera.

And if you take a critical look at the taifa Stars team that qualified for the Afcon in 1980 you would discover that the lowest academic education the majority of the players in that team was Form Four but most of them were either A Level or pursuing degrees at University level.

Secondly, that team was the best prepared in Taifa Stars’ history as the team flew straight to Lagos after a training stint in Mexico. The 1980 Taifa Stars was also skippered by Leodgar Tenga who had just completed his first degree in mechanical engineer ing at the University of Dar es Salaam.

And a few years after the tournament, Tenga would fly to Japan where he successfully pursued his Msc in engineering. Tenga would later go on to be elected TFF President and during his tenure, he played a critical role in laying a robust foundation of the present TFF.

Therefore one lesson that can be drawn from Taifa Stars’ qualification for the 1980 Afcon finals is that a team cannot qualify for the Afcon or Fifa World Cup until and unless it is well prepared.

And good preparation starts with the quality of the players making the team coupled with the quality of the foreign teams that the team being prepared is ranged against.

But because I have already noted that the first and last time our Taifa Stars qualified for the Afcon tournament was almost four decades ago. And that, since then we have failed to qualify for subsequent Afcon finals due to a variety of reasons which include lack of money, we can therefore not afford to stay away from regionally organized soccer tournaments which include the CECAFA tournament.

Staying away from such tournaments means continuing to tread on the same path of lack of preparation, much as the teams our boys are exposed to in the regional soccer tournaments may sometimes lack the requisite quality.

For instance, consider the present form of CECAFA teams in the region. Top on the list are Kenya, Uganda and invitees which sometimes come as far away as Zambia, Malawi and Sudan.

The present form of Uganda Cranes is presently higher than any team in the CECAFA region, especially if you consider the fact that they recently almost qualified for the Fifa World Cup.

And if a team like Chipolopolo (Zambia), who are former Afcon champions, are invited in the forthcoming CECAFA tournament, Taifa Stars players, would benefit quite considerably if they played against such teams.

In conclusion, instead of worrying about disrupting a league that has failed to produce competitive teams; for the same reason, lack of exposure, on the part of the clubs, against top flight foreign teams.

Let us not ignore regionally organized soccer tour naments that include the forthcoming CECAFA soccer tournament. If we think we still don’t have money for taking Taifa Stars to foreign countries for trial matches, then we should not ignore regionally organized soccer tournaments that would at least keep our local players in competitiveness.

Let us not forget that a poor man does not choose what to eat just as a poor country does not choose which country to engage with!

When the founding father of this nation, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, toured Nigeria late in 1985 as part of bidding farewell after 23 years in power, Nigerian journalists asked him how he had managed, during his entire leadership tenure, to have friends both in the East and West and at the height of Cold War.

After remaining silent for about half a minute, which was typical of him whenever he was confronted with what he considered a difficult or tricky question, he said: WE ARE POOR.

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