THE Confederation of African Football (CAF) has finally given green light to Zanzibar to participate on all its organised soccer tournaments, including the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), separately from Tanzania.
The implication of this is that the only tournament that Zanzibar would be expected to take part under the Union would be the Fifa World Cup. And, this is because the world football governing body does not recognise Zanzibar as a separate entity from the United Republic of Tanzania.
In terms of soccer development and growth, the CAF’s decision gives both Zanzibar and Tanzania Mainland the opportunity of developing the beautiful game faster than other African countries. Full participation in CAF’s organised soccer tournaments, from Afcon to continental club tournaments, means Tanzania will no longer be required reserve places for Zanzibar players. All positions in the Tanzania national soccer team, Taifa Stars, would from now onwards be reserved for players from the Mainland.
And, because both parts of the Union would be afforded the opportunity of fielding soccer players from its own part, ideally, Tanzania should be able to field a very strong team when it comes to taking part in the Fifa World Cup.
This is because the Union team for the Fifa World Cup would have the opportunity of drawing fully, experienced soccer players from both sides of the political divide. However, top soccer officials from both parts of the Union would be cheating themselves if they think soccer development and growth would be attained simply by playing separately in all CAF organised soccer tournaments.
The only way CAF’s decision is going to benefit both sides of the Union would be if both parts are heavily involved in the establishment and professional running of their respective soccer academies. Soccer development and growth cannot and will never be realised as long as Tanzanians continue with their old ways of developing the game.
Now that Zanzibar has finally been given what they have for years yearned and consistently fought for, continental soccer independence, the ball is now in their own court. Before the CAF’s decision, successive Zanzibar soccer leaders complained bitterly over what they alleged to be the Tanzania Mainland’s deliberate decision to margninalize them when it came to the selection of players for the national soccer team, Taifa Stars.
Zanzibar’s litany of complaints were however, always ignored, and for a very good reason, mainly because of Zanzibaris’ own problems that revolved around their failure to prove their arguments through their participation in the regional national soccer tournament, the Challenge Cup.
Had Zanzibar been winning regional national soccer tournaments, their marginalization complaints would have made a lot of sense as people would have pointed out their regional soccer success both at national and club level as a case in point. Unfortunately for them, that has not been the case not only in regionally organized national and club soccer tournaments, but also in the continental soccer club tournaments.
Zanzibaris had rightly started their crusade to participate, separately, in CAF’s organized soccer tournaments with continental soccer club tournaments. After some sustained noises, CAF gave in and allowed Zanzibar soccer clubs to participate, separately, in its two major continental club tournaments, the Champions League version and the Confederation soccer tourney.
But as we all know, since the isles was allowed to field two teams, every year, in the continental soccer club tournaments, Zanzibar clubs have never gone beyond the second round much as Mainland soccer clubs cannot equally boast against their Zanzibar counterparts as their performances have equally left a lot to be desired.
But all soccer failures on both sides of the political divide have been contributed by the two countries’ failure to make good use of soccer academies. The two countries’ failure to do well, continentally, in football has been proved further by the fact that even money cannot help Tanzanians to win if they have not pursued their soccer development path through soccer academy.
In fact, nothing proves that more than our own Azam FC. As we all know, the company that owns Azam has failed to produce a winning team despite the edge it has, when it comes to availability of funds for buying local and foreign soccer players.
However, the only good thing about Azam FC is that they have established a very good foundation for their soccer academy. And the day those boys start rolling out of the soccer academy assembly plant would mark Azam FC’s ascendancy to soccer supremacy.
As I had occasion to note, in one of my last columns, over what Manchester City’s team manager, Pep Guardiola, had said about his commitment to build the majority of the players in his team around English players.
The same thing must and ought to be done by Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar soccer clubs. They must strive to ensure that the majority of their soccer stars are not only Tanzanians, but have also been developed through their soccer academies.
That is the only way that CAF’s latest decision on Zanzibar would bring the desired soccer success to the United Republic of Tanzania.
- Attilio Tagalile is a journalist/author and media consultant based in Dar es Salaam and can be contacted through tagalileattilio@ yahoo.co.uk