WHAT Zanzibar Heroes did in the last two weeks in Kenya, during the just ended CECAFA Challenge Cup tournament, is what I have always advocated for that Tanzanian soccer teams ought to do in their participation from the regional and international soccer tournaments.
The Zanzibari’s did not only play in accordance with what their chief coach had instructed them, but they also put one thing that Tanzanian soccer teams, from the Mainland to the Isles have always lacked, lack of seriousness and commitment.
Zanzibar Heroes reached the final because of the kind of character they displayed in all their matches from the start to the final against their Kenyan counterparts. Unlike their Mainland brothers, Kilimanjaro Stars, Zanzibar Heroes took all their matches with untold drive and commitment.
Their defeat before they took on their Kenyan counterparts in the final on Sunday was a draw against the same Kenyan side. Kenya won the tournament on spot kicks simply because they had a psychological edge over the Zanzibari’s, they used to their the maximum the backing they received from their 12th player, the endless cheering from their home crowd.
Had that match been played on a neutral ground, Zanzibar Heroes would have won that match hands down. For despite Kenya playing before their own fans, Zanzibar Heroes were a better side, dominating the final match in each and every department.
The challenge that now faces Zanzibar Heroes is building the side they now have into an invincible team. To do that, Zanzibar national football authority need to provide Zanzibar Heroes with as many topflight friendly matches as possible.
Many national soccer teams in sub-Saharan Africa would be ready to take on the Zanzibari’s given what they did in the just ended regional soccer tournament. What Zanzibar football authority needs to do now is start those friendly matches in East and Central Africa and later on move to the COSAFA region. It is only by playing against many top flight national soccer teams, teams that are better and stronger than them that the latter would be able to get the requisite experience they so much need.
Following their sterling performance in Kenya, many players in the Zanzibar Heroes are likely to end up being recruited by Kenyan clubs and that is a good start. It is a good start because most of them are likely to be recruited by Kenyan clubs which will be taking part in continental clubs tournaments.
Should that happen, that would give them the much needed exposure and experience they badly need. Zanzibar Heroes’ success means that when Salum Mayanga picks up his new, Taifa Stars team, he needs to take more players from Zanzibar Heroes than from the Mainland. In short, Zanzibar Heroes should get not less than the first eleven positions with the six or eight players coming from the Mainland.
The beauty of Zanzibar Heroes’ players is that most of them are not only young, but as I have already noted, they have tons of the requisite drive and commitment. In fact, I would be surprised if Mayanga continued to pick those useless, good for nothing Mainland players who lack both drive and commitment.
A glance to all regional soccer teams which had participated in the CECAFA Challenge Cup, with the exception of course of Kilimanjaro Stars, show that they all fielded young, inexperienced, but very talented players. From Burundi to Rwanda and from Uganda to Kenya, they all had sides they wanted to test for future, more important soccer tournaments.
In a nutshell, they used the CECAFA Challenge Cup tournament as a venue for testing their new talents. But the Mainland did completely the reverse, they went for the same players who had failed Tanzania not only as Mainland players, but also as Taifa Stars players.
Commenting on Kilimanjaro Stars’ debacle, former Taifa Stars chief coach, Dr Mshindo Msolla, said our players were already a tired lot from the on-going Vodacom Premier League. Now that ought to change by getting new, young players, who have taken part in the U-17 soccer tournament, the Serengeti Boys.
The problem with the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) is that whenever we are through with the U-17, more often than not, that tend to mark the end of the players who had constituted such a team and that is a wrong concept.
The end of the U-17 continental soccer tournament for Tanzania should actually mark the beginning of new, soccer life for such young boys. It should mark a new, preparatory ground for more challenging international tournaments rather than anything else. Mayanga should therefore not fear defeats as long as he trying a new, young and talented team.
It is meaningless to field players from Simba, Young Africans and Azam FC, if the best they can get for us is get knocked out in the preliminary of Afcon or Fifa World Cup qualifiers. For instance, the best results Kilimanjaro Stars could get for the Mainlanders was to draw against Libya! Many have blamed the coach, Ammy Ninje. They may be right. But players can equally not be spared.
They lacked the drive and commitment in all the matches they played in the tournament. They could not even produce a single player from Kilimanjaro Stars who could be said to have deserved to carry the tag of the player of match, let alone the tournament and that’s extremely bad.