Tan­za­nia soc­cer: If JK failed, can JPM suc­ceed?

The African - - NEWS - Hi­lal Sued,

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

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