AS had been widely expected, our representatives in the continental clubs tournaments, Young Africans and Azam FC are out of the run after being knocked out by their counterparts!
While Azam FC are out until next year, if they win either the Vodacom Premier League or the Federation Cup; Young Africans move to the lesser tournament, the Confederation Cup.
Young Africans were first blessed with the opportunity of stepping down to the Confederation Cup last season, after being knocked out by Egypt’s multiple continental club winners, Al Ahly. Unfortunately, they once again fluffed and returned home to continue with their contention for the VPL.
For both clubs, the ignominious knockout this time around could rightly be described as the fastest knockout they have had in the last five years they have represented us in the continent’s version of Champions League and the Confederation Cup.
What is however, more disheartening is that both of them have been knocked out not in the second round, but rather in their first or second pair of matches. And, what makes this development extremely serious is the simple reason that they have been beaten by clubs within the region.
The implication of our clubs’ loss against clubs within the region means that, in terms of soccer level, we hold the lowest rank in the region and that again leaves a lot to be desired. For Azam FC, their latest debacle, after taking part in the continental clubs tournaments for over five years, and in a row, raises one important question.
Namely, the dire need for the club owner to review the profiles of the team’s coaching bench from the first team to those behind training of the club’s soccer academy. After over five years of working on the club’s soccer academy, Azam FC should have by now had the services of their first graduates from their soccer academy.
And as I have, time and again, noted in my sports columns; you cannot succeed in today’s fast pace, modern soccer without making use of players from well organised and professionally run soccer academies.
Therefore, if Azam FC are yet to get even the first graduates from their soccer academy, then there is something utterly wrong with their soccer academy.
This is because they have already had adequate time for preparing their own, homegrown soccer players. However, if they have the players, but are perhaps not up to the required standard, then it’s most likely they don’t have the right crop of trainers for their soccer academy.
In short, I expect Azam FC to only do well if the bulk of their players come from soccer academies, internally or externally. Secondly, the second area they need to look critically into revolves around purchase of foreign players.
They need to change by getting their players either from under 21 national players from other parts of the continent or those who figure prominently in their first eleven national soccer teams. The point is, Azam FC should go for national team regulars, and not for reserve players some of whom end up returning home without kicking the ball.
Given the sound financial resources they have, Azam are capable of getting European premier league coaches. And, having done that, they should allow such coaches or managers to buy their own players they think would fit the kind of system they want to deploy for their teams.
If Azam FC spends their money wisely, hence start winning continental clubs tournaments, such development would rub off on other top-flight clubs in the VPL. It will force clubs like Simba and Young Africans to even change their present form of management by getting into the kind of management followed by the Chamazi club. Indeed, for our clubs to change into better teams they are supposed to be, they need massive pressure from within in order to grow to another level.
And, as long as such pressure is not exerted to them, Simba and Young Africans will remain what they have been for ages which can rightly be translated into underdevelopment.
The importance of exerting pressure from within the VPL to the so-called big clubs is that it would, ultimately, force such clubs to act promptly.
As for Young Africans’ failure to forge ahead yet again, their problem as I had occasion to note in one of these columns a few days ago is very clear; namely, continued reliance on local and foreign players who have gone past their peak both in terms of skills and age. For instance, the best example was a few weeks ago provided by Simba Sports Club when they beat their archrivals by 2-1.
In that match, it was quite clear that Young Africans lost despite being in front by one goal because of lack of pace which is one of the tell-tale signs that a team had either not prepared well for the match or the players were past their peak.