Tanzania soccer: If JK failed, can JPM succeed?
Last week the season of the world’s many football leagues wound up in various countries, including Tanzania and deserved champions were crowned. In Tanzania it’s the Young Africans who won double crowns, whilst tens of thousands of kilometres away – in England whose league matter is closely followed up here – the winners were not from the traditional big guns, i.e. Manchester United, Chelsea or Man City – but the little known Leicester City who have clinched the title after 132 years in wait.
The English Premier League has captivated the passion of soccer lovers Tanzania – as has in many third world countries since the advent of satellite television broadcasting in early 90s, the time that also coincided with the introduction of television broadcasting here at home.
It was the time when Manchester United started to dominate English soccer and the first TV channel to air English Premier League matches here at home was DTV that enabled viewers to watch Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham score spectacular goals.
I have decided this week to shove aside politics and discuss the game of football, a.k.a. soccer, undoubtedly the most beautiful, the most loved game in the world – even though the Americans would vigorously contest the assertion.
The rules of the game according to Phil Woosman, the Welsh international footballer of the 1950s, are very simple. Basically it is this: if it moves, kick it. If it doesn’t move, kick it until it does.”
In Tanzania it hasn’t been moving; no matter how many times and how hard one kicked it. Call me unpatriotic or whatever, but I must say that our country is one of the continent’s big countries that are not great.
Not great in a sense that despite its vast size it has failed to seriously demonstrate its prominence and importance in the region around it, let alone the continent. Honestly, we are still lagging behind in status – on how we are looked upon by the world.
For example, despite beating our northern neighbour – Kenya – in many vital areas such as in population (i.e larger labour force), vast mineral resources, good arable land etc, that country has outshined us in many important areas such as in tourism as well in the budget that is not outrageously donor dependent.
Even in the game of football – Kenya has been doing better than Tanzania – in regional tournaments – particularly in club soccer. It has some footballers playing in some top European leagues including the prestigious English Premier League.
To the south, in 2012 Zambia etched its name in the history books when it became the third southern African country to lift the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy in the tournament’s 55-year history.
The victory came 19 years after 18 members of its national squad died in a plane crash close to where the final was played in the Gabonese capital. In fact Zambia is the most successful SADC countries in football terms after having taken part in most AFCON finals -- a record 15 times. Tanzania participated only once – in 1980.
Five years ago we celebrated 50 years of independence, with TFF officials failing to fit in the merriment by way of showing anything – the contents of the silverware case they maintain in their offices – if there is such case at all, save for a few regional cups, if we are also to count those won in the EA Challenge Cup championships – including its predecessor of yonder years – the Gossage Cup – all of which wont fill half a shelf...
…except perhaps for the 60,000-seater ultra modern football stadium that was inaugurated in 2008 in a match that we drew with the Mozambicans. But many say even the costly infrastructure is currently not perfectly maintained through negligence.
And credit for that goes to Third Phase President Benjamin Mkapa. But his successor, Jakaya Kikwete, a soccer enthusiast himself and a Yanga fan, tried to instil push up the game by bringing in foreign national coaches and teams – including the Brazilian side to play with Taifa Stars. All to no avail.
Enter John Magufuli. Many say it’s doubtful whether the game will get the desired attention from him as he has many priorities on his desk than even throwing a glance at the soccer mess. His first move in that area was remind the national soccer body, the TFF to start fending for itself and went on to demanded tax arrears from it. And when it had no money, the TRA seized some of its vehicles.
Many say club football is the main root for the country’s soccer failure. The highest rung any club reached in continental tournament was as already mentioned, the final of the number two soccer competition by Simba.
Our country’s closest encounter with any football fame was 23 years ago (in 1993) when Simba were finalists in Africa’s Number Two Club championship after they were beaten on home soil by Stella Abidjan of Ivory Coast. Otherwise it has all been outrage after outrage despite various pretences from stakeholders that they were developing the game.
But we might now be seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Early this year Mbwana Ally Samatta, former Simba player clinched the 2016 African Player of Year (local league) in Abuja, Nigeria. A very rare occurrence indeed even though the award came to him while playing for a foreign Club (DRC’s TP Mazembe) and not home club.
But what is really ailing our game of soccer? Could it be due to the advent of satellite television in early 90s that enabled soccer lovers to watch the game thousands of kilometres away? In fact the lack of dynamism in the home game was always being comfortably mitigated by the foreign matches via TV.
But this is not confined to Tanzanians only -- it has spread in many countries, specifically third world countries, where the game is also in pitiable condition, both in play and management. However I doubt very much whether Brazilians, Argentines, Turks or even Romanians show as much passion for English soccer as are Tanzanians, Ugandans or Malawians, relatively that is.
The Brazilians, for example, have their own soccer that is both well played and managed to dedicate themselves to and love. Very few Brazilians would idolize Wayne Rooney because their country has lots of even better Rooneys than the Brits can ever hope to have, let alone produce. God may have endowed the Brits with the production of cars, industrial plants and machinery, including weapons of mass destruction, but not soccer players, despite their weak claim that they invented the game.
As stated, Tanzania’s club football is the place where all the problems on the game begin, or get nurtured, with the help of newspapers and the big hand of the government.
The chaotic situation has some bearing with the country’s two top clubs’ (Simba and Yanga). In the last 47 years the two have shared the Mainland championship trophy among them 41 times.
And since times immemorial, these two clubs had no means of generating income apart from handouts from some rich businessmen – the so called sponsors or “wafadhili.” It’s just hard to swallow that these businessmen were and are ready to throw away their millions into what are clearly bottomless pits just for the love of soccer – chaotic soccer that is.
The truth is, directly, but mostly indirectly, these so called “sponsors” profit a lot through this altruistic façade. Doors that shield lucrative business deals open up automatically at the approach of these sponsors. They are hardly subjected to vigorous